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More Than 95% of Public Unaware That Too Little Exercise Increases Cancer Risk

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Regular exercise is an important part of being as healthy as you can be. Much research has shown that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) if you've been diagnosed, as well as reduce the risk of developing breast cancer if you’ve never been diagnosed.

Still, a small study suggests that most people don’t know that getting less than the recommended amount of exercise increases the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer.

The research was published online on Aug. 9, 2018 in the Journal of Health Communication. Read “Awareness of Health Outcomes Associated with Insufficient Physical Activity and Associations with Physical Activity Intentions and Behavior.”

To do the study, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., surveyed a diverse group of 1,161 people in the United States. The researchers wanted to know the diseases people thought were linked to too little exercise.

The researchers then randomly selected 361 people and analyzed their answers to open-ended questions about the diseases associated with a lack of exercise.

More than 63% of the people were aware that too little exercise can contribute to both cardiac and metabolic problems. But only about 3% of the people knew that a lack of exercise was linked to a higher risk of certain cancers.

The researchers proposed that the lack of public awareness about the link between lack of exercise and certain cancers might be because public health campaigns have focused on the importance of exercise for heart health and weight loss, without mentioning other health benefits.

"People might be more likely to exercise if they understand just how important physical activity is to their overall health -- not just their heart health," said Erika Waters, lead author of the study and associate professor of surgery at Washington University.

The bottom line is that exercise is good for everyone. The American Cancer Society recommends that women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer exercise regularly -- at least 4 hours per week -- to improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of developing new cancers.

If you’re still recovering from breast cancer treatment, along with being busy with work, household chores, and family matters, finding time to exercise almost every day can seem impossible.

It can help to break up your exercise into 20- or 30-minute sessions that add up to about 4 hours per week. Walking is a great way to start. Maybe you walk 30 minutes before going to work and 20 minutes on your lunch break. You can add a few more minutes by parking farther away from your building or taking mass transit. Or you can make plans to walk with a friend after work -- you’re more likely to stick with exercise if someone else is counting on you. Plus, you can socialize at the same time.

Visit the Exercise section for tips on exercising safely and how to stick to an exercise routine.

To talk with others about the importance of exercise and breast cancer risk, or to meet others who can help support your exercise goals, join the Discussion Board forum Fitness and Getting Back in Shape.

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