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Female Focus: Cancer Prevention

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Exercise has proven to be one of the best medicines for not only preventing cancer but also managing symptoms. Cooper Fitness Center Director of Fitness Mary Edwards, MS, and Female Focus Director Colette Cole, MS, discuss the dominant role exercise plays in cancer prevention and how Cooper Fitness Center’s Female Focus program meets women’s needs before, during and following a cancer diagnosis.

Reduce your risk
Exercise can actually reduce one’s risk for cancer by first helping individuals maintain a healthy weight and body composition, or the muscle to fat ratio. It has also been shown to reduce sex hormones associated with cancer development, regulate blood glucose by reducing insulin production and support proper digestion. In addition, recent studies show physical activity reduces inflammation, which, according to the National Cancer Institute, can cause DNA damage over time and potentially result in cancer.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150-300 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75-150 minutes a week of vigorous exercise to prevent the seven most common types of cancers:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Stomach cancer

ACSM also specifies more detailed exercise recommendations in managing cancer symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, depression and physical function. “When it comes to managing cancer symptoms and treatment side effects, individuals are advised to perform 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity along with full-body strength training two to three times per week,” explains Edwards.

A hand in prevention
Female Focus has specifically designed a program to strengthen and empower women to live healthy lifestyles in whichever season of life they find themselves. From maintaining optimal health to purposefully building strength and immunity after a cancer diagnosis, the program equips each participant with nutritional and fitness resources to help make their health a long-term priority. The program overall focuses on three main components including:

  • Nutrition
    With obesity being one of the top contributors to cancer risk, the program specifically provides a nutrition education component to teach participants how to properly fuel their bodies and lose weight safely.
  • Aerobic fitness and strength training
    This custom program also helps women embrace aerobic fitness and strength training components through regular exercise, which improves bone density and energy levels.
  • Stress management
    As Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, says, “It’s not stress that kills, it’s the way you manage it.” Sometimes, a little stress might be just what you need to push you through a tough project or presentation or a chore you've been dreading. But constant stress can become wearing, both emotionally and physically. After time, chronic stress starts to chip away at your health, making your body more susceptible to cancer. Female Focus provides a support system and positive mental aspect which helps reduce stress levels that could in-turn potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

“By focusing on these three components, women are not only able to reduce their risk of developing cancer but also build up the strength their bodies need to come out stronger on the other side should they receive a diagnosis,” says Cole. “I have seen women come through this program who have already beat cancer and want to reduce their risk of recurrence. It proves the lifestyle changes we teach are effective.”

Though the possibility of cancer may feel beyond your control, focus on the things in your life you can control to reduce your risk. Remember to never underestimate the power of exercise.

For more information about the Female Focus program at Cooper Fitness Center, please call 972.233.4832 or visit