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Lower Back Pain and Exercise

Easing Lower Back Pain Through Exercise

If you suffer from lower back pain, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), nearly 80 percent of Americans will experience some level of lower back pain at some time in their lives. It is the most common reason for doctor visits and for job-related disability. Lower back pain is usually caused by injury, although some back pain can be caused by certain diseases such as arthritis, a ruptured or herniated disc, or more rarely, cancer.

Lower back pain can be either acute, meaning it lasts a few days to weeks, or chronic, lasting longer than three months. It’s important to see a doctor for any new back pain to rule out underlying disease. If your lower back pain is the result of an injury, the best way to keep your symptoms under control is by staying active. Regular exercise can help the muscles in your back relax and can increase blood flow to the area.

When exercising after a mild back injury or with chronic back pain, there are some important things to keep in mind so you don’t make your symptoms worse.

Get out of bed.
When your back hurts, it’s tempting to just lie in bed and watch television. While resting for a day or two is fine, any longer will make your pain worse, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The sooner you get up and moving, the quicker you will feel some relief. Start slowly, with simple activities such as a 10-15 minute walk two times a day.

Stretch the right way.
Performing the right types of stretches and doing them correctly can really help calm lower back spasms. Do the exercises recommended here two times per day to help relieve back pain and strengthen back muscles. Click here to find eight back stretches.

Don’t push through the pain.
If certain exercises are making your back pain worse, stop doing them. Pushing into a painful position can damage tissue further and make back pain worse.

Check your posture.
Regularly slumping or slouching, especially while sitting for long periods of time, such as at an office desk, is a common reason for lower back pain. Focus on sitting and standing up straight, and make sure your desk chair is ergonomically built to support your back while working. Also, wearing high heels can exacerbate the problem as can being overweight or obese.

Avoid high-impact activities.
Running, high-impact aerobics, basketball, and other activities that place a lot of stress on your joints can make back pain worse. Avoid these types of activities until your pain gets better. Instead, focus on lower impact exercises such as walking or riding the stationary bike or elliptical machine. Swimming and aquatic exercise are also especially helpful when dealing with lower back pain.

Be careful with weight lifting.
When you’re experiencing back pain, avoid doing overhead weight moves such as shoulder presses and weighted squats. These types of weight movements can add pressure to your spinal discs and cause back pain to worsen.

Once you make these changes to your exercise routine, your lower back pain should start to improve significantly. If it does not, you should consult your doctor.

 

 

Exercising Safely with Asthma

May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Since spring is the prime season for allergy and asthma sufferers, it is the best time to educate others about these conditions.

In the US, 25 million children and adults have asthma, and approximately 21 million people suffer from seasonal allergies. Additionally, about 31 million people have some type of food allergy. While both allergies and asthma are common conditions, there are several special measures people with these conditions should take as many factors can trigger symptoms that range from bothersome to life-threatening.

When it comes to exercise, people with asthma must take special precautions, as exercise in and of itself can trigger asthma attacks. People with asthma may experience trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, or tightness in the chest during or following any physical activity. But exercise is actually beneficial for asthma sufferers, and most people with asthma can exercise safely with proper precautions and the right treatments.

Taking precautions
For those with asthma, many factors in the environment can trigger symptoms, so it is important for sufferers to learn their individual triggers. For example, exercising in very cold or very hot temperatures, dry air, air pollution, and allergens such as pollen or ragweed can all set off symptoms or a full-blown asthma attack. Most doctors recommend that people with asthma exercise in warmer temperatures because moist, warm air is better for keeping the airways lubricated and relaxed.

However, if exercising outdoors in colder temperatures, wearing a face mask that covers your mouth and nose can help keep symptoms at bay. If allergens like pollen trigger symptoms, check your area’s pollen counts before heading outdoors to exercise, and switch to indoor activity on days when pollen counts are particularly high. For those with asthma, many factors in the environment can trigger symptoms, so it is important for sufferers to learn about their individual triggers.

In general, people with asthma should be careful not to overexert themselves during physical activities. If you experience asthma symptoms, you should stop exercising.

Best types of exercise
Some types of exercise and sports are more likely to cause asthma symptoms than others. Activities that require constant exertion such as soccer, hockey, or basketball are more of a problem than sports like tennis or baseball which require short bursts of physical exertion.

Good choices for exercise or sports for people with asthma include swimming, walking, hiking, yoga, golf, weightlifting, and using indoor equipment such as elliptical machines or stationary bikes. Swimming can be particularly beneficial for asthma sufferers because a swimmer’s position horizontally in the water can help loosen mucus in the lungs, and breathing in warm, moist air is also good for reducing symptoms. Yoga is also a great choice as it focuses on breathing and can help increase lung capacity by strengthening muscles.

Whatever activity you choose, it’s important to build up your endurance over time and do it regularly.  It’s also important to use your inhaler or any other medications your doctor has prescribed to help control your asthma before or during exercise. Always make sure to have your inhaler with you or close by when exercising should you begin experiencing an asthma attack.

Exercise-induced asthma
Another special consideration is a condition known as exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). People without diagnosed chronic asthma can experience asthma symptoms that are triggered by exercise. With this condition, airways in the lungs can narrow with strenuous exercise and cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and poor athletic performance during or after exercise.

Usually in EIB, symptoms begin soon after beginning exercise and can last 60 minutes or longer if not treated. It’s important to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during or after exercising, as EIB can start at any age. Just as with chronic asthma, many different environmental factors can trigger EIB symptoms including dry air, cold temperatures, allergens, or air pollution. EIB is more common with activities that require long periods of deep breathing such as running or soccer.

EIB can usually be managed effectively, and sufferers can continue participating in sports or exercise by taking medication before exercise to prevent or reduce symptoms. Most people are prescribed an inhaler containing medications that can be used approximately 15 minutes before exercise to control symptoms. These medications can also be used during exercise if symptoms arise.

 

Fit for Two: Exercising During Pregnancy

May is Women’s Health Month, a reminder to women to prioritize their health and build healthy habits for life. And there is never a more important time in a woman’s life to be proactive about her health than during pregnancy. In addition to eating right, taking folic acid, staying hydrated, and getting good prenatal care, exercising while pregnant can also have many health benefits.

Some of the many benefits of exercise during pregnancy include increased energy, better sleep, and a reduction in backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling. Other benefits are improved mood, better posture, increased muscle tone, strength, and endurance. Some studies have shown regular exercise while pregnant may reduce your chance of developing gestational diabetes. Regular activity may also help you cope better with labor and delivery and will make it easier to get back in shape after your baby is born.

Check with the doctor!
Before beginning a new exercise program while pregnant or continuing your regular workouts, it’s important to discuss your plans with your OB/GYN. Most of the time, exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both mom and baby, but if you have certain conditions, your doctor may advise you not to exercise. Conditions such as heart disease, lung problems, problems with your cervix, repeated vaginal bleeding, and high blood pressure as well as some pregnancy complications (including being pregnant with multiples, preterm labor, or severe anemia) may make it unsafe to exercise.

How much?
If you’ve been cleared to exercise throughout your pregnancy by your doctor, the official advice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is to aim for 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity at least five days per week. While that may seem daunting, keep in mind that activities such as doing housework or yard work also count. You can also break up that time into several mini-workouts throughout the day.

Pace it for pregnancy
Most women can continue their regular exercise routines during pregnancy, although there may need to be some modifications. If you haven’t exercised in a while but want to incorporate some activity during your pregnancy, it’s important to start slowly and build up to the recommended 30 minutes per day.

Walking is a great exercise for beginners and perfectly safe while pregnant. Activities like swimming, riding a stationary bike, and low-impact aerobics classes are also safe to do. If you do regular strength training, it is better to use lower weights during your pregnancy. Prenatal yoga is also a great choice to do during your pregnancy—there are many DVDs or videos available online, or you can usually find in-person prenatal yoga classes at studios in your area.

Exercises to avoid

While most physical activity is safe to do while pregnant, there are a few things you should avoid:

  • Sports with a high risk of falling or abdominal injury—such as skiing, ice skating, horseback riding, or contact sports.
  • Sports that involve altitude change. Unless you already live in a high altitude, you should avoid any activity that takes you above 6,000 feet. Conversely, scuba diving, which can cause decompression sickness to your baby, is off limits while pregnant.
  • After your fourth month, you should avoid all exercises that require lying flat on your back for long periods of time as it can restrict circulation to you and your baby.
  • Hot yoga or exercise in very hot weather.

It is important to watch for any warning signs that there might be a problem when exercising. Stop exercising and consult your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, headache, dizziness, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

Regular exercise while pregnant can help you cope with physical changes in your body and help you build stamina for what lies ahead as long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations and carefully listen to your body.

Dancing for Exercise

Let’s Dance! Incorporating Dance Into Your Workouts

If you’ve grown bored with your regular workout routine, try mixing some dance moves into your workouts. Not only is dancing fun, but it can also burn up to 600 calories per hour, which is about the same or more than going for a swim or a run for the same amount of time.

Three Girls Dancing

Dance It Out
Dancing is one of the best things you can do for your body. In addition to burning calories and building muscle, according to Dance Magazine, research has also shown that dance improves mood, reduces stress, increases energy, lowers anxiety, slows cognitive decline, increases confidence, and much more.

A 2017 report from the University of Brighton in the UK found that dancing demands a lot of energy output because it involves movement in all directions. Dance involves much accelerating and decelerating which the body is less able to do in an energy-efficient way, so your body is having to work harder than if you were running or swimming, for example. Because dancing involves a lot of starting, stopping, and changing directions, it burns a lot of energy even though the dancer may not be covering a lot of ground.

Dance engages muscles in different ways than traditional types of exercise. Dancing uses less repetitive movements than exercise such as running or weightlifting, so it keeps your muscles from adapting as they would to repetitive movements, and this can strengthen and tone your muscles in new ways. It also improves balance, which is really important as you age to help you avoid injury.

Shake Your Booty
Now that you know all of the benefits dancing can have for your body and mind, how can you incorporate dancing into your exercise routine, especially if you think have two left feet? The good news is that you don’t have to be able to turn perfect pirouettes or move like Beyoncé to reap the benefits of dance.
Here some ways you can add dance into your weekly workouts:

  • Sign up for a dance class. Many dance studios offer adult classes in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop dance as well as many other styles of dance. Enrolling in a beginner’s class will help you learn the type of movements and teach you correct form. You can also take partner dance classes such as ballroom dancing, salsa, or swing dancing, which are great ways for you and your partner to spend time together learning something new and doing something good for your body.
  • Take a fitness dance class. While fitness dance classes are different from traditional dance classes offered at dance schools, many gyms offer some type of dance fitness class such as Zumba, Barre, or Cardio Dance. These classes are high-energy and focus less on form and technique and more on getting your heart rate up and exercising specific muscle groups.
  • Purchase a dance DVD. If you don’t belong to a gym or don’t want to pay class fees, there are many dance DVDs available that you can do at home. You can find DVDs for everything from Zumba to classical ballet to belly dancing. Plus, you might be less self-conscious about your dance moves when grooving in the comfort of your own home!
  • Use a dance video game. If you have kids, chances are you have some sort of video game system. There are many dance video games that are easy to follow that you can do with your whole family.
  • Hit the dance club. Plan a regular night out with your partner or friends to hit the dance floor. Dancing is a great social activity,  and spending a night grooving on the dance floor with friends can work up a sweat and count as a workout.

To enjoy the benefits of dance, don’t worry about how you look or if you are doing certain dance moves the right way—just get moving to the music and have fun. The best part about dance is that it doesn’t feel like exercise because it’s so much fun!

8 Ways to Avoid Exercise Injuries

Avoiding Exercise Injuries

Whether you’re just starting out with an exercise routine or are a seasoned athlete, injuries can and do happen. But exercise injuries don’t have to be inevitable. There are simple steps you can take to exercise smarter and reduce your risk for some of the most common fitness injuries such as strains, sprains, and muscle tears.

1. Have an annual physical.
There’s a reason it’s recommended that you see your doctor before starting a fitness program. Any new activity can place stress on your body, especially your joints and heart. Your doctor can perform a fitness test using a treadmill as well as other tests to check your cardiovascular system and to determine if you have any limitations.

2. Use a personal trainer.
If your gym offers the services of a personal trainer, take advantage of it, especially if you are new to exercising. A qualified trainer can help you avoid many of the bad habits that affect even seasoned athletes, and teach you how to concentrate on form when performing exercises. Even just a few sessions with a personal trainer will be beneficial to show you how to perform exercises correctly to avoid injury.

3. Know your limitations.
Knowing your body and your personal limitations is one of the best ways to avoid injury. It’s important to avoid activities that push too hard on any weak areas you may have. For example, if you have knee issues, you’ll want to avoid using a stepper or running on a treadmill; if you deal with hip problems, a spinning class could exacerbate your problem.

4. Listen to your body.
In addition to knowing your body’s limitations when working out, it is never normal to feel pain. Pain is a signal from your body that you are placing too much stress on a certain muscle or joint, and continuing to exercise when you feel pain risks injury. If you feel pain at any point during exercise, even a muscle cramp, you should immediately back off and rest that muscle. You can switch activities or work a different muscle group; for example, if you are feeling pain in your ankle, then move to working out your arms.

5. Warm-up.
You should always take the time to stretch and warm-up before exercising. Even if you’re in great shape, your muscles and tendons will be tight before you begin exercising. If you don’t warm up, you risk injuring muscles by straining them or even rupturing a muscle or tendon. Spend several minutes stretching or walking before jumping into your exercise routine. Warm-ups go a long way in preventing injuries.

6. Start slowly and work up gradually.
If you’re just starting out, it’s important to begin an exercise program by gradually building up intensity as your fitness improves. Start with moderate activity for 20 minutes, three times per week, and build from there by slowly adding time to your session and more frequency to workouts.

7. Wear proper clothing and shoes.
Many sports injuries are the result of improper footwear. Investing in a good pair of sneakers that are designed for the sport or exercise you are doing will protect your feet and ankles, and help prevent injury. Likewise, proper workout clothing is essential for comfort. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find workout wear that provides protection and is designed to wick away sweat and prevent overheating.

8. Fuel your body.
Working out on an empty stomach will be harder on your body. While you don’t want to work out immediately following a meal, eating the right foods two hours before a workout will give your body the proper fuel it needs to perform. Hydration is just as important.  Drink 16 oz. of water at least two hours before working out, and sip on water during your workout to keep from becoming dehydrated. After working out, replenish with more water. Hydrated muscles are less likely to become injured.

 

Does Exercise Help Fight Off Colds and Flu?

Help Prevent Colds and Flu with Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is good for our bodies and well-being, but research also shows that regular, moderate exercise can also help our bodies fight off germs during cold and flu season. The key, though, is the word moderate—in contrast, more intense exercise and endurance training have been shown to have the opposite effect on the immune system.

Moderate Exercise Boosts Immunity
A research study found that staying active decreased the odds of catching a cold by nearly half, and even for those who exercised regularly and still caught a cold, the infection and symptoms were less severe. Lead researcher Dr. David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and a former president of the International Society of Exercise Immunology says, “Bouts of exercise spark a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating around the body that can attack foreign invaders.”

Research shows moderate amounts of aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, or cycling during peak cold and flu months help boost the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria. Moderate exercise is considered to be 30 minutes, four to five times per week.

But in people who engage in prolonged exercise, such as marathon running, research has shown it can suppress certain parts of the immune system. Those who engage in fitness exercise seem to have better resistance to colds and viruses than those who participate in more intense endurance training. For example, athletes running 60 miles a week have double the odds of sickness, compared to those who run less. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session.

Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?
If you’re feeling under the weather, you may not feel like exercising at all, but if you are a regular exerciser or are training for a 5K, for example, you may feel like missing your workout will put you behind.

Deciding whether or not to exercise when you are sick depends on certain factors. According to David Pyne, a sports scientist, and researcher with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at the University of Canberra, athletes do what’s known as the “neck check” when determining if they should continue with regular training or rest for a few days when sick.

The “neck check” means that if your symptoms are from the neck up and not too severe—such as a runny nose or sore throat, and you don’t have a fever—then moderate exercise won’t make you worse and actually might be beneficial.

However, if your symptoms are more severe and are below the neck, like chest congestion or muscle or joint aches, or you’re running a fever, you should avoid exercise until your symptoms subside. Exercising with more severe cold or flu symptoms can prolong your illness and make you feel worse.

After a bout with the common cold, once symptoms have resolved, you can safely resume your regular exercise routine. But if you’ve had more severe illness or the flu, it’s important that you return to exercising gradually. Ease back into your routine with light exercise on the first day or two after an illness, and gradually work back up to your normal routine.

Keep the Germs Away
In addition to regular moderate exercise, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent colds and flu:

  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get a flu vaccine annually.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently.
  • Wipe down counters and other surfaces (phones, remotes, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) with a strong cleaner.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth, ears, nose, and eyes.
  • Stay home if you’re sick!

Exercise 101: Starting an Exercise Program for the New Year

If you’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to start an exercise program, you’re not alone. The majority of New Year’s resolutions are fitness-related, with 65 percent of those who make resolutions vowing to exercise more, according to Inc. com. Perhaps you aren’t just wanting to exercise more or run a 5K, but instead, you’ve never really exercised much before and want to start being more active, but aren’t sure where to begin.

Here are some tips to get you started on an exercise program so you can make a lifestyle change, and not just burn out after a couple of weeks and quit by the end of January.

Get a checkup.
Before beginning any sort of exercise program, it’s important to check with your doctor first. If you’ve been inactive for a while or are over 45, you should consult a doctor to make sure you don’t have any underlying health conditions or limitations that could put you at risk for injury during exercise.

Choose an activity you enjoy.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily have to mean a strict, time-consuming workout at the gym. There are so many different types of exercise that it’s best to start with something you enjoy doing, so there’s a better chance you’ll stick to it. You can always try something new later on after your fitness has improved. Activities such as walking, dancing, biking and even gardening are good ways to get started moving, especially if you’ve led a mostly sedentary lifestyle in recent years.

How much exercise?
For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. If you can’t do a full 30 minutes, even as little as 5-10 minutes will still offer benefits, and you can increase the duration as your fitness level improves.

As a long-term goal, the American College of Sports Medicine’s current recommendations for physical activity include at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. You can achieve the 150 minutes any way that works best for you—for example, you can work out for 30 minutes five days per week, or do a 40-minute workout every other day.

Set realistic goals.
Create an exercise plan that has clear, achievable steps and goals. For example, set goals to exercise for 30 minutes three times per week to begin. After a few weeks of sticking to that plan, increase to four days and increase the duration of how long you exercise. Continue to build on this type of schedule as your fitness improves. Once you’re exercising regularly for as many days as you can, you can also set more long-term goals, such as completing a 5K.

Create a habit.
You are more likely to stick to an exercise program if you can make it a regular habit. If you schedule your workout at the same time every day, such as after or before work, you’ll be more likely to stick to it long term. Use your online calendar or a print calendar to schedule your workouts into your day just like you would other appointments. Set reminders on your phone or use fitness trackers if that keeps you motivated.

Stay hydrated.
Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to keep your body properly hydrated. If you’re exercising in hot temperatures, it’s also important to replenish fluids during exercise, and always drink water after you finish your workout to help your body recover.

Warm up and cool down.
Be sure to always warm up before each workout. Stretching your muscles will help prevent injury, increase flexibility, and help reduce muscle soreness after working out. Similarly, cooling down after a workout is equally important. Light walking or stretching after a workout can help return your breathing to normal and help reduce muscle soreness.

Listen to your body.
If you’re just beginning and are not used to strenuous exercise, start slowly and pay attention to your body’s limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort during a workout, stop and rest before continuing. By starting slowly and building up the intensity of your workouts over time, you’re more likely to stick with it and less likely to injure yourself.

Reward yourself.
Regular exercise has all kinds of wonderful benefits for our bodies including increased energy, improved sleep, improved emotional health, weight loss, and improved overall health. But these types of benefits are long-term rewards. To motivate yourself to stick with an exercise program long term so you will reap these types of health benefits, it’s important to give yourself short-term rewards when you reach a fitness goal or even after completing a week of workouts. These rewards can be anything you enjoy such as a hot bath, watching a show on Netflix, a manicure/pedicure, a new pair of sneakers or new workout clothes. Just make sure you only allow yourself the reward after you exercise.

Halloween Candy: How Much Exercise to Burn Off Your Favorite Treats?

The only thing truly scary about Halloween is the potential weight gain from indulging in all of the candy and treats this time of year. While a few nibbles here and there aren’t likely to do much damage, those yummy bite-size candies you steal from your little goblin’s Halloween bag can really add up when it comes to calories. And who can eat just one fun-size Snickers or mini-Reese’s Cup?

But have no fear! By stepping up your exercise routine, you can burn off those spooky snacks so you aren’t haunted by those creepy calories for months to come.

Here is how much exercise you’ll need to do in order to burn off the extra calories from your favorite Halloween treats.

  • Fun-size Kat bar (3 pieces/210 calories): Run 20 minutes or walk at a moderate pace for one hour.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (1 individual cup/105 calories): Cycle for 25 minutes or swim laps for 15 minutes.
  • Fun-size Almond Joy (1 bar/80 calories): High-impact aerobics class for 15 minutes, 30 minutes of yoga or 15 minutse of golf.
  • Fun-size Snickers bar (2 bars/160 calories): 45 minutes of weight training or yoga class for one hour.
  • Fun-size M&Ms (3 mini-packs/180 calories): Cross-country hiking for 30 minutes or go dancing with friends for 30 minutes.
  • Fun-size Hershey’s Chocolate bar (1 bar/77 calories): 10 minutes of racquetball or jump rope slowly for 10 minutes.
  • Fun-size Whoppers (2 bags/60 calories): 10 minutes on trowing machine or take a one-mile slow jog.
  • Candy Corn (20 pieces/140 calories): Walk at a brisk pace for 35 minutes or play ping pong for 30 minutes.

So eat, drink, and be scary this Halloween. Just remember to be mindful of how many handfuls of those mini-chocolate bars you’re eating so you don’t over-boo it!

Happy Halloween!

Not Always Pink: Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with it’s pink-washed campaigns and numerous pink products, is mainly associated with women, but men can get breast cancer too. While rare, men do develop breast cancer, and the topic is often taboo and rarely discussed. This lack of awareness often means men who develop symptoms may not recognize them or associate them with breast cancer, and they may be diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer is not as treatable.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., men are born with some breast cells and tissue. And although men don’t develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. It is much less common, with less than one percent of all breast cancer cases in males, and only one in 1,000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.

Because breast cancer awareness for males is less, and many men who do develop symptoms delay seeking treatment, men carry a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women. Unlike women who are recommended to get annual mammograms and do regular self-breast exams, men aren’t routinely screened for breast cancer, so when it is detected, it’s usually at a much more advanced stage. Essentially, most men just don’t think they can get it.

Risk Factors in Men

There are certain risk factors that may make a man more likely to develop breast cancer:

  • Older age. Just as in women, risk increases as a man ages. The average age of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer is 68.
  • High estrogen levels. Both normal and abnormal breast cell growth is stimulated by estrogen. Men can have higher levels of the hormone due to a variety of reasons such as medications, being overweight or obese, environmental exposure to estrogen (i.e. pesticides like DDT), high alcohol consumption, and having liver disease.
  • Family history or genetic mutations. Just as the case with women, if there’s a family history of other men in the family having breast cancer, risks are greater. Also, if men carry the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, they are at an increased risk.
  • Radiation exposure. Men who have been treated for other cancers with radiation, especially to the chest, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Symptoms in Men

Symptoms of breast cancer in men can be similar to those for women, but men may not associate these changes with cancer. This causes a delay in diagnosis. It’s important that men recognize that any changes to their breasts should always be checked by their physicians.

Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men Include the following:

  • a hard lump in the breast that can be felt
  • nipple pain
  • an inverted nipple
  • clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • sores on the nipple and areola
  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

With early diagnosis, treatment for breast cancer in men can be very successful. More awareness of breast cancer in men is needed so that men recognize any potential symptoms earlier and seek treatment when cancer is at a much more treatable stage.

Move More, Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk.

This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re focusing on prevention. And one of the best ways to lower your risk of developing breast cancer is regular exercise. In fact, multiple studies have shown that exercise is the No. 1 lifestyle change you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk, and also to reduce your chances of recurrence if you’ve already been diagnosed.

According to the Maurer Foundation, exercise can help reduce your breast cancer risk in several ways:

  • It helps you maintain a healthy weight. When you are at a healthy weight for your body, you naturally have less fat. This is important because fat cells store high levels of estrogen, and higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
  • It can reduce the amount of estrogen in your body.  A study found that postmenopausal women who regularly exercised for a year had lower levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen, compared to women who didn’t exercise. Lower levels of estradiol in the body can reduce breast cancer risk.
  • It boosts your immune system.  Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and help your body to better fight off infections and diseases as well as helping to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • It helps with stress relief and mood. People who are active report better moods and less anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can help you better manage the stress in your life, which is important in lowering your risk, as too much stress has been shown to speed up cancer’s progression.

How Much Is Enough?

Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, but you don’t need to work out for hours every day to reap the benefits and lower your breast cancer risk. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, such as walking, cycling, or gardening  has been shown to significantly reduce your risk, according to one study.  A  Women’s Health Initiative study concluded that just 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking has been shown to reduce your breast cancer risk by 18 percent. If you increase your walking program to 10 hours or more per week, you can lower your breast cancer risk even more.

For those who prefer higher-intensity workouts, the recommendations are 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spaced out across the week. Activities such as running, high-impact aerobics, swimming, or sports such as soccer or basketball are some examples of higher-intensity exercise.

Preventing Cancer Recurrence

If you’ve already had a breast cancer diagnosis and have undergone treatment, exercise can also be extremely beneficial in preventing the cancer from returning.  A 2017 study on lifestyle choices and their impact on the chances of cancer recurring in women who’ve previously had breast cancer found that of all the lifestyle factors reviewed, physical activity and avoiding weight gain seem to have the most beneficial effect on the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

According to the study, women who are overweight or obese seem to have the lowest chances of survival after a breast cancer diagnosis. Conversely, women who incorporated at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week (or 75 minutes per week of higher-intensity exercise) significantly reduced their risk of breast cancer returning and of death from breast cancer.

In addition to reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence, exercise can improve mood, improve body image, increase energy, maintain bone health, reduce fatigue, reduce anxiety and stress, improve physical condition, and improve overall quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Researchers did note that some forms of breast cancer are more aggressive and may recur despite lifestyle changes.