The More Exercise, The Better For Older Women

Postmenopausal women who exercised more had more body fat loss, lowered breast cancer risk

(RxWiki News) For most people, slimming down can lower the risk for many conditions. But, for postmenopausal women, maintaining a healthy weight may be especially important.

A new study from Canada found that older women who exercised for 300 minutes per week saw greater benefits in terms of body fat loss measures than women who exercised half that amount.

"The findings of this study further indicate the need for a regular exercise program for post menopausal women who are at an increased risk of higher body fat storage and breast cancer," said Rusty Gregory, wellness coach, personal trainer and author of "Self-Care Reform: How to Discover Your Own Path to Good Health" and "Living Wheat-Free For Dummies."

"Although fat loss is a key component in reducing the risk of cancer, so is an improvement in immune function and a decrease in inflammation; both of which are benefits of exercising on a regular basis. Therefore, the benefits of exercise extend to us all," Gregory told dailyRx News.

"Postmenopausal women may derive unique benefit from exercise because there is a tendency for total and abdominal weight gain after menopause," wrote lead study author Christine M. Friedenreich, PhD, of CancerControl in Alberta, Canada, and colleagues. "Moreover, body fat, abdominal fat, and adult weight gain increase the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer."

Dr. Friedenreich and team followed a group of 384 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 74 for one year. These women — all of whom were considered inactive prior to the study's start — were divided into two groups.

These women all participated in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise five days per week — but one group exercised in 30-minute sessions (for a total of 150 minutes a week) while the other group exercised in 60-minute sessions (300 minutes a week). Exercises included activities like walking, running, biking and elliptical use.

These women were asked not to make any changes to their usual diets.

After one year, those in the 300-minute exercise group saw a larger drop in total body fat — an average of 1 percent more body fat than the 150-minute group.

Those who exercised more also saw larger drops in abdominal fat, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI).

"These results suggest additional benefit of higher-volume aerobic exercise for [obesity] outcomes and possibly a lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer," Dr. Friedenreich and colleagues wrote.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities.

According to Gregory, some helpful strategies to get started on an exercise program include:

  • Gathering as much information as you can on the benefits of exercise as it relates to breast cancer
  • Meeting with a fitness professional for proper exercise instruction
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Having an accountability buddy
  • Rewarding yourself from time to time
  • Developing a social support system that encourages exercise and other healthy behaviors

This study was published online July 16 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

The Alberta Cancer Foundation funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
July 15, 2015