It is the time of year when the seasons and Aspen trees are noticeably shifting right in front of our eyes. With this change, physical activity becomes increasingly more enjoyable as we are able to escape the summer heat for the crisp fall air in preparation for ski season.
October isn’t only known for beautiful weather and a transition period for what many Coloradans live for, however. Thanks to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s efforts, October is also widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness month around the nation.
So, what is a way an exercise physiologist like myself can help support the prevention and treatment of breast cancer? I do not believe I am spoiling anything when I say my best course of action is to encourage people to…exercise!
An important 2005 Nurses’ Health Study that observed the relationship between physical activity and its effects on breast cancer revealed some very promising results. Pulling in information from approximately 3,000 nurses over a period of 14 years from 1984-1998, it was discovered that regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity after a breast cancer diagnosis (stages I, II, or III) was strongly linked to an improved quality of life. In fact, based on the sample of women in the study, it was found there was roughly a 50% reduced mortality risk and the risk of breast cancer recurrence by meeting what we now know as the 2008 National Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week (Holmes et al., JAMA 2005). There is also a vastly growing body of evidence that regular physical activity is instrumental in the overall prevention of breast cancer (cancer.org).
You might be curious how such an exercise goal can be achieved, especially if it is not already a part of your daily life. I advise you to think F.I.T.T.
- Frequency – 5 or more days per week (3-4 if vigorous)
- Intensity – Moderate to Vigorous
- Time – 30 minutes per day (20 if vigorous)
- Type – Do something you enjoy while sustaining an elevated heart rate
I imagine you’re now wondering how you can determine your intensity level. Use a simple tool like the “sing-talk” test. If you can hold a conversation with someone, but fall short of breath if you try to sing a tune, congratulations on finding yourself in the moderate intensity zone (ex: a fast walk). If you can’t either sing or talk that is a clear indication you are working out vigorously.
Keep in mind these are the minimum recommendations put forth by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control to begin obtaining some of the more significant benefits of physical activity. It is important if you have been diagnosed with cancer to have your physician establish a pathway to work with an exercise professional specializing in cancer or chronic disease prevention while continuing your standard treatment of care. Otherwise, if you are apparently healthy or your physician has cleared you to exercise outside of a medical facility, the Fitness & Wellness department here at JCC Denver has Fitness Specialists available to help set you up with an exercise prescription that puts you on your own fitness track, as well as offers services to guide and monitor your progress much more closely.
If you would like to acquire more information about fitness and its impact on your health or would like to become an active participant in one of our fitness programs, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Jared Blitz, ACSM CPT, PAPHS, EIM
Fitness & Wellness Manager
Jared is a former clinical Exercise Physiologist that has taught Health and Exercise Science courses in higher education for the past 10 years. He is looking to restart and complete his Master of Public Health program as soon as he settles into his new role at the J.