Nearly 180,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,000 women will die from the disease. In view of these statistics, it is helpful for women to know that there are simple things they can do to improve the quality of their lives and increase their chances of surviving breast cancer -- and that these things won’t disrupt their lives or cost much money, if they cost anything at all.

Recently, the study of personal activity levels and patterns has emerged as a hot topic in physiological research across multiple disciplines. There are several reasons for this. First is that it is relatively easy to measure how active a person is – not a lot of sophisticated technology is required. Second is that activity is seen as a strong indicator of quality of life - people whose activity level is seen to be declining are viewed as being in worse overall condition than people who remain as active as ever. Third is that activity is a more “objective” measure, compared with having patients fill out questionnaires about how they are feeling. But the biggest reason for the popularity of activity research is that more and more studies are linking activity levels with better health outcomes – and this is crucial for cancer patients.

A study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (“JAMA”) found that moderate levels of activity were strongly associated with better survival. The study defined “moderate” as the equivalent of walking for 1 to 2 hours per week, at an easy pace of between 2 and 3 miles per hour. Nothing hard about that!

Interestingly, they found no increase in survival benefit as a result of longer or more vigorous activity (though they point out that this finding is not conclusive as it is possible that some of the more active women may have had later stage diagnoses than others).

The key take-away from this study is that moderate exercise significantly improves the prospects of surviving breast cancer.

This finding was supported by two studies published in 2008 in the Journal of Oncology, both looking at colorectal cancer patients. They found that physical activity “appears to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and mortality” and that “recreational physical activity after the diagnosis of stages I to III colorectal cancer may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer-specific and overall mortality.”

There are many things that people can do to reclaim their health when facing serious health challenges. Keeping moving is clearly one of the most important of them. Aside from anything else, lower activity levels are associated with more depressed states of mind – an understandable shift after a diagnosis. But it is really important to get past the initial downturn and realize that there is no benefit in thinking of yourself as a “victim of disease” and then letting your energy be turned off by your mental state.

There is a path to better health that you can start upon by simply walking a little, every day. Expert medical advice and encouragement are, of course, vital – but equally important, in my opinion, are the every day actions you take yourself to get better.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. James Chappell is known for his work with chronic, severe and supposedly terminally-ill people. His website provides clear self-help tools to enable people to improve their health using natural means: