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

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. You should aim for 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.

What kind of physical activity do I need to do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?

There are many different ways you can meet the recommended 150 minutes a week. You might choose exercise such as swimming, cycling or playing sports, but many everyday activities like brisk walking or walking up stairs also count. You could also try:

  • Mowing the lawn
  • Washing the car
  • Gardening
  • Vacuuming
  • Pushing a pram or wheelchair

You can 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.

Why does being physically active reduce my risk of breast cancer?

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

But being physically active 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.

What are the 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, osteoporosis and other cancers such as bowel cancer. It can also improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

What if I can’t be physically active?

If you have a health condition that makes it difficult for you to be physically active, we recommend you speak with your doctor about what is safe for you to do. They may also be able to help you work towards being more active in the future.

Remember, you can also take other steps to reduce your risk of breast cancer, such as maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.

Where can I find more tips and advice on physical activity?

The NHS webpage has information and ideas for being physically active. You can also visit NHS Direct Wales if you live in Wales, or NHS inform if you live in Scotland.

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Information last reviewed: November 2017

Next review: November 2020

Breast Cancer Now's health information is covered by NHS England's Information Standard quality mark. Find out how this resource was developed.