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Physical activity and breast cancer risk

Learn about physical activity and its benefits, including why it can reduce breast cancer risk and how active you need to be to reduce your risk.

1. Does exercise reduce breast cancer risk?

You can reduce your risk of breast cancer by being physically active for around 20 minutes a day:

  • Any activity that makes you breathe harder and get warmer will reduce your risk
  • The more active you are, the more you can reduce your risk

2. How active do I need to be to reduce my risk?

Evidence shows that you can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by being physically active on a regular basis.

This includes any activity done for 10 minutes or more that makes you breathe harder and get warmer, while still allowing you to carry on a conversation.

Guidelines recommend you do around 150 minutes a week of this type of activity. You can divide this up however you like, so that could be just 20 minutes a day or 30 minutes five days a week.

You could reduce your risk even further if you do more than 150 minutes a week, or include more strenuous activities such as hillwalking, running, aerobics or tennis as part of your 150 minutes.

3. Why does being physically active reduce breast cancer risk?

Being physically active can help you keep to a healthy weight, which can reduce your risk of breast cancer after the menopause.

Exercise also reduces your risk in ways that are not related to your weight. This is not yet fully understood, but it may be because physical activity causes changes in the levels of various hormones in your body and may also boost your immune system.

4. Other benefits of being physically active

Regular physical activity is good for your health in many other ways.

It can reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other cancers such as bowel cancer.

It can also improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

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Quality assurance

Last reviewed in September 2019. The next planned review began in February 2023.

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