Every year when I have my mammogram, I dread the possibility that this year will be the year that I hear bad news. With a mother who had breast cancer and caring for so many patients who have developed it over the years, I always wonder, “Will I be next?

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Nearly 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US every year,  and 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. We know that there are various risk factors:

  • Family history
  • BRCA genetic mutation
  • Higher breast density
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking alcohol more than 6 glasses of alcohol each week

There are so many things that are out of our control, but as it turns out there is a way to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.  And as the title hints, it’s exercise. Yes, regular exercise.


There’s abundant evidence that maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise decreases the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. What does it take? Well, on average research has shown that 30 minutes per day, or about 3 hours each week reduces the risk by 30%. Before you get overwhelmed by the idea of 3 hours each week, remember, exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.  You don’t have to run a marathon. And, you don’t have to go to a gym. Really!

Why we don’t exercise

It’s a long list, right? I’ve heard it all and these are some of my personal favorite excuses:

  • I don’t like how I look in exercise clothes
  • Other people will judge me
  • I’m judging myself
  • I’m overwhelmed by the idea of losing 10 pounds, so I’m giving up and eating chocolate.
  • I’m not coordinated enough to do a dance class
  • I don’t have time

Personally, I have the added stress and ok, guilt of being a person who advises people to exercise, so I also need to follow my own advice. Then there’s the reality of check of trying on clothes in a well lit dressing room with lots of mirrors. I can go either way with that too. Either get discouraged and give up or decide to get to the gym on my way home from work. Getting to the gym has been my choice lately because I also feel a lot better afterwards. Sorry, I was distracted, back to why all of us need to exercise to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Motivations and Tips

Personally, I am motivated by how much better I look when I’m leaner. Next, by how much better I feel when I’m out hiking or walking and can keep up with everyone else. And, yes, it does occur to me that I’m also reducing my risk of breast cancer. Here’s some tips that have worked for me.

The next time you’re on the couch and have a 1/2 hour to spare, why not get up and take a walk around the block, take the dog for a walk, or head to the gym. Yoga? Yes! Work on getting the recommended10,000 steps each day. It all works in your favor. Get a standing desk. Dust off the exercise equipment in the garage. Just start with 10 minutes and work your way up.

No matter what you prefer, the key is to get up and get moving. , if you need a little motivation, just remember how you feel when waiting for your mammogram results. 

What’s your motivation?

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