Healthy Diet, Moderate Exercise Decreases Death for Breast Cancer Patients

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record (or perhaps an iPod stuck on repeat), have you taken your walk today?

    A new study from the University of California–San Diego, released in early June, examined the exercise and eating habits of women with early stage breast cancer. And those who exercised moderately (a brisk 30-minute walk, six days a week) and ate the recommended daily five servings or more of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of death from breast cancer by 50%. Study participants were followed an average of 6.7 years. These results mirror that of a Harvard University study reported in 2005, which showed a 50% reduction in deaths in women who exercised 3 to 5 hours per week.
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    Are you still with me? Haven’t stopped reading? Good. If you’re following the protocol above, excellent! If not, read on.

    Let’s look at exercise in a positive light. If you’re not exercising, you have a million excuses, but they probably boil down to these: no time, too painful, “hate it.” Listen: that’s all true for you. Right now. But it doesn’t have to stay true. Here’s how to deal:

    • No time: Change your routine, and/or your priorities. You need just 30 minutes. 1/48 of a day. Lop 5 minutes off reading the paper, 10 minutes spent doing chores (do you REALLY have to vacuum the entryway today?), and 15 minutes watching TV, and there’s your 30. Or get up 15 minutes early. Stay up 15 minutes later. Whatever, you need to be willing to change your life just a little bit. (Hey, if you’re so over-scheduled you can’t even find 30 minutes to help reduce your risk of cancer recurrence, that’s a problem; but a problem for another SharePost.)

    Once you’ve “found” the time, go for a walk. And it doesn’t have to be aimless; you can multi-task. Walk the dog. Walk to the store or post office, rather than drive. Park at the very farthest reaches of the parking lot at work, then walk to your car several times a day. Walk briskly around the mall! Walking is the easiest exercise to integrate into a busy life. You just have to choose to do it: no life is too busy for brisk walking.

    • Too painful. Unfortunately, some of us find even walking a challenge. Sore, tingly feet from chemo, unbearable fatigue from radiation, aching joints from hormone therapy… there are any number of reasons exercise can be painful. My advice? Little by little, try to increase your tolerance for pain. I’m taking Arimidex. It makes me feel about 100 years old in the morning. I know that the first few steps out of bed, the first 30 minutes or so of moving around, are going to be a pain–-literally! But I do it anyway, and that’s the key: don’t let discomfort stop you. Feel your pain or fatigue; accept it; and understand, as you move, that gradually it’ll lessen. You may be an exception to the rule, but I believe that moving around, even if ever so slowly, makes you feel better, not worse. Start small; take one more step than you feel you can take. Before you know it, you’ll be walking through your pain and fatigue, and feeling good on the other side.

  • • “Hate it.” Why? Exercise doesn’t necessarily equal boredom or pain (see above). I’ve been exercising regularly for years. On its own, I don’t love it. I find it somewhat tedious, somewhat time-consuming, and it makes me uncomfortable–a bit of panting, a little sweat. BUT–the treadmill is the place I read detective novels and People magazine (my delicious hidden vice). Our morning 3-mile walk around the neighborhood is an opportunity for me and my husband to laugh, gossip, and hold hands. And a yoga class full of friends is much, MUCH more about the camaraderie than the calories. In short: Pairing exercise with something you enjoy is a great way to lessen its sting.
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    Now, as for those five daily servings of fruit and vegetables… that’s for my next SharePost.
Published On: July 02, 2007