It's Never Too Late to Start Exercising
Credit: Exercise photo via Shutterstock

One of my dearest friends is a self-proclaimed couch potato – and proud of it. We've been friends since childhood, and although there were times when I was right beside her on the couch with a tub of popcorn, I now realize how damaging that lifestyle can be to your health. For many years, I've been trying to motivate her to get up off the couch and exercise with me.

Every time I come across a new study about how exercise can improve your health, I share it with her. She usually shrugs them off, but I think this one will hit home. It did for me.

A study published this month in the journal Cancer found that women who exercised even moderately were less likely than their inactive peers to develop breast cancer after menopause. Women who exercised regularly before menopause were one third less likely to develop breast cancer. And women who started exercising after menopause were 30 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women who didn't exercise at all.

My favorite thing about this study is that it shows it's never too late to make a difference in your life. All too often, I hear women say things like "Why start now?" This study answers the question.

Both Wanda and I have friends and family members who have suffered at the hands of this awful disease. But many of us do; don't we? According to the CDC, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States (behind non-melanoma skin cancer). Because we know there's a way to reduce our risk, don't we owe it to ourselves to find ways to exercise more often?

According to the study, 10 hours or more per week made a difference. That may seem like a lot, but it's vital to remember that exercise doesn't have to be grueling, and it doesn't have to be done all at once. If you don't already exercise, start by adding small lifestyle changes and work your way up.

Here are some tips for getting more exercise into your daily routine:

  1.  Find an exercise buddy. Go for a bike ride or hit the treadmill, and have a pleasant chat. It'll feel a lot less like exercise if you're also enjoying time with a friend. 
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Small changes like these can truly add up. And, yes, they do count as exercise.
  3. Find something active that you enjoy doing. Maybe it's taking a dance class, or maybe you're just running around with the kids. Either way, it's exercise.
  4.  Resolve to go for a walk at lunch every day. Or at least, every sunny day. Walk around the building or on a nearby trail. Better yet, bring your buddy along. The time will surely fly.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!