Growing evidence shows the power of exercise

Evidence keeps on coming about the value of a healthy lifestyle after a breast cancer diagnosis. Research shows that women who eat right, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight are more likely to live longer and have a higher quality of life.

One recent study conducted by the University of Southern California strongly supports the idea that exercise is very important in preventing breast cancer coming back. The study looked at the link between cancer treatments and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health conditions – heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar, and insulin resistance.

Women with metabolic syndrome are three times more likely to have a breast cancer recurrence, and twice as likely to die from breast cancer, compared to women without the syndrome.

In this new study, women were randomly put into either a non- exercise group (who continued their lives as normal), or into a group that did three one-on-one exercise sessions each week for four months. The workout program included strength training with weights as well as moderate- intensity aerobic exercise.

The study found rates of metabolic syndrome were much higher in those who didn’t exercise. Rates of the syndrome dropped by more than 60 per cent in those in the exercise group. The women in the exercise group also lost fat, gained muscle and reduced their risk of heart disease.

These results show that regular strength-based exercises, as well as moderate aerobic exercise, significantly decreased the chances of developing metabolic syndrome and therefore may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, as well as diabetes and heart disease.

‘Moderate-intensity aerobic activity’ is exercise that makes breathing a bit harder, but does not make you feel completely out of breath. For example, walking briskly where you can talk but not sing.

The study How breast cancer survivors can increase their reduced life expectancy was published on 22 January in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

BCNA has two resource booklets on exercise and healthy eating after a breast cancer diagnosis. To download or order, visit or call 1800 500 258.
Issue 82
Autumn 2018