Let’s get moving this Breast Cancer month!
The hustle and bustle of life has cornered most people into inactive lifestyles - with very little to no exercise. ...
Most things in life are easier said than done! Exercise is top on that list. Even when we have all heard for years that physical activity is important for our health we still don’t prioritise it.
The hustle and bustle of life has cornered most people into inactive lifestyles - with very little to no exercise. That said, I cannot ignore the fact that some people out there are exceptional and have embraced physical activity with an impeccable passion. There is a misconception that such people have plenty of time and are probably rich enough to afford the lifestyle.
Well, let me break the bubble of excuses, you don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment to get active. There are plenty of affordable physical activities for you, such as walking and running.
Many scientists including the World Health Organization (WHO), have categorically pointed out that per week, adults-only need at least 150 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking or 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as running to maintain good health. Of all the golden tips on healthy living such as eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco use, consuming alcohol in moderation, exercising regularly, has elicited more discussions. Perhaps the fuss is because exercise if done consistently and correctly has been proven to reduce one’s risk of many types of diseases including cancers like breast and colon cancer. Research dating back to the late 1980s, also shows that aerobic fitness may help extend lives.
As we plunge into yet another breast cancer awareness month, 2020 reports by WHO indicate that there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. Unfortunately, just being a woman, increases your risk of getting breast cancer and then, increasing age, obesity, harmful use of alcohol, family history of breast cancer, history of radiation exposure, reproductive history (such as age that menstrual periods began and age at first pregnancy), tobacco use and postmenopausal hormone therapy also increase the risk to the disease.
In Uganda, breast cancer is among the common cancers. Further studies also indicate that greater than 80% of women presenting for breast cancer treatment are at the late stage of the disease. This was attributed to a dysfunctional referral system and a lack of recognition of the early signs and symptoms and compounded by the poor infrastructure and inadequate human capacity.
As the world aspires to provide more screening, more education, and more health equity for women all over, individually we must take responsibility through lifestyle changes like exercise. One might ask, how does exercise lower the risk of breast cancer?
• Exercising lowers the levels of hormones such as estrogen and insulin. These two hormones have been proven to correlate with cancer development and progression.
• It reduces inflammation and improves the immune system, allowing the body to properly function and ward off disease.
• It helps burn calories which aid in weight maintenance. Exercising also makes your bones stronger and increases mineral content.
• Lastly, exercise increases your level of endorphins which are mood boosters, a happy mind is a happy body!
What then is the best exercise? It goes that anything that causes a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate means you are physically active. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to consider yourself physically active. Vigorous activities, on the other hand, produce better results. If your exercise is making you 'huff and puff' then you are in business. Vigorous exercise can be defined as exercise at 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate, and this includes activities like football, squash, netball, basketball, aerobics, jogging, and fast cycling to mention but a few.
However don’t feel cornered, it is never too late to start, nor are you obliged to begin with vigorous exercises. You can slowly begin walking around your house, using the stairs more often, doing more house chores, walking around your workplace, or simply walking around while answering your phone.
Meanwhile, become besties with your breasts! Know their size, shape, and texture. Any slight change should be easier to detect since you are with your body every single day. Many women however notice breasts swell and become tender the week before menstruation due to an increase in hormones. These changes may resolve once the menses arrive however if you notice a lump, swelling, or nipple irritation that does not go away, visit the doctor at once. As I pen out, go for regular breast cancer screening and remember to embrace exercise as your new lifestyle, it's trendy, chic, and wise! Together we rise!
The writer, Mariam is a sports activist with a Master’s in Sports Management from Real Madrid Graduate School.