Sports have many physical and mental benefits that can help lower your risk of breast cancer. This is how.
While the month of October can mean many different things for many different people — Halloween, the MLB Playoffs, the start of a new NBA season — it also marks one important time of the year that everyone should be talking about. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is among the most common types of cancer in the world. In fact, in the Philippines, it is the third-most fatal type of cancer that affects Filipinos. However, it also happens to be among the most treatable forms of cancer. This is what makes campaigns such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, A.K.A. Pink October, all the more important — to get more women talking about it, and hopefully, to find ways of preventing it.
Sports is one tool that many people have in their arsenal that may lower one’s risk for breast cancer. Athletes gain many overall health benefits from training for and competing in sports, and the best part is that you don’t need to be a professional to reap these benefits.
This is how sports play a role in lowering your risk for breast cancer.
Regular physical activity can lower your risk
One of the most commonly known preventive measures for breast cancer is physical activity. Many studies have shown a link between breast cancer and physical activity, revealing that higher levels of physical activity can reduce the risk of breast cancer. In addition, studies have also revealed that former athletes have a lower risk of breast cancer.
Physical activity and regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy body mass index, can help regulate hormones, and may benefit the immune system. Given that athletes spend a lot of time exercising during training, these health benefits can play a role in breast cancer risk prevention.
In general, adults should try to incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. One fun and engaging way to do this is through sports. Going to the gym or going for a run are not the only ways to exercise — you can engage in a racket sport, a team sport, or a competitive sport to help motivate you to get your active minutes in every week.
Practicing sports can encourage healthy eating
Once you’ve found a sport that’s right for you, chances are, you’ll do what you can to continuously improve, maybe to win, or maybe just for pride. This is a good thing, and we think everyone should strive to find a sport that makes them feel this way. One reason this feeling can help lower the risk of breast cancer is because eating healthy is an inherent part of sports.
Most athletes work hard to maintain a healthy diet because it doesn’t take scientific numbers to prove that eating right helps one perform better at their sport. Many factors that can increase the risk of any form of cancer are in the diet. Eating too much sugar, highly processed food, too many calories, too much alcohol — the list could go on. Consequently, eating healthy — getting the right nutrients, eating high-fiber foods, and prioritizing whole foods — can help decrease the risk.
Being motivated to maintain a healthy diet will not just make you better at your sport — it can also help you prevent the risk of breast cancer.
Sports can provide happy hormones
While the physical benefits are frequently cited as reasons why sports are beneficial, the more underrated benefits we can get from sports are also on the mental side, which can also help lower your risk of breast cancer.
Although there is limited evidence to show that stress can directly increase the risk of breast cancer, there are ways by which it can do so indirectly. For instance, research has shown that chronic stress can contribute to a faster spread of cancer, particularly among women. This is because when the body is stressed, neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine are released, which can stimulate cancer cells. Chronic stress can also cause fatigue, weaken the immune system, and lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, which can, in turn, increase the risk of cancer.
However, sports have been found to do the opposite. Though stress is common, studies show that regular physical activity can help athletes reduce or manage stress. On top of this, sports can help release what people call “happy hormones” — endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin — and this can be a therapeutic and even a preventive way to cope with stress, and thereby, lower one’s risk of breast cancer.
Sports can truly have a multitude of benefits on the body in many areas of life. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, make sure you find out more about what you can do to use all the tools available to you to lower your risk.
Banner image from Freepik.