New research suggests that exceeding the recommendations may provide greater protection, and that running may be better than walking.
The study reported in the International Journal of Cancer followed 986 breast cancer survivors as part of the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study. Thirty-three of the 714 walkers and 13 of the 272 runners died from breast cancer over nine years.
When analysed together, their risk of breast cancer mortality decreased an average of 24 percent per metabolic equivalent (MET) hours per day of exercise, where one MET hour equals a little less than a mile of brisk walking or about two-thirds of a mile of running.
However, when the runners and walkers were looked at separately, there was significantly less mortality in those who ran than walked. The runners’ risk of breast cancer mortality decreased over 40 percent per MET hour per day.
Runners that averaged over two and a quarter miles per day were at 95 percent lower risk of breast cancer mortality than those that did not meet the current exercise recommendations of 2.5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week. In contrast, the walkers’ risk of breast cancer mortality decreased a non-significant five percent per MET hour per day.
Williams cautions, however, that this study doesn’t disprove the benefits of walking because the number of subjects was small compared to previous research showing a benefit. However, he does believe that the research shows that exceeding the current exercise recommendations is probably better than simply meeting them, and that running may be better than walking.
“If I were a breast cancer survivor, I would certainly consider running or some other vigorous exercise over walking, and I wouldn’t just be doing the minimum, with the consequences and potential benefit being so great,” he adds.