01/31/2014 01:41 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2014

Running May Trump Walking For Lowering Breast Cancer Death Risk

athlete running on the road in...
athlete running on the road in...

For breast cancer survivors, going above and beyond in the exercise department could provide greater protection against dying from the condition.

Past research had indicated that breast cancer death risk decreases 25 percent with 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise a week. Now, a new study in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that breast cancer survivors might want to run instead of walk for their exercise, as running seems to confer greater benefits at lowering mortality risk from breast cancer.

"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," study researcher Paul Williams, of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said in a statement.

For the study, 986 breast cancer survivors were followed for nine years. Of the survivors, 714 walked for exercise and 272 ran for exercise. By the end of the study period, 33 of the walkers and 13 of the runners had died from breast cancer.

Researchers found that for every metabolic equivalent (MET) hour each day of exercise -- which is the same as running about two-thirds of a mile, or briskly walking a little less than one mile -- the risk of dying from breast cancer decreased 24 percent, on average.

However, the runners experienced greater gains than the walkers. Specifically, runners had a more than 40 percent decreased risk of dying from breast cancer for every MET hour each day, while it was just a 5 percent decreased risk for walkers.

And runners who ran an average of 2.25 miles per day had a 95 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer over the study period, compared with people who did not meet the recommended minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise, researchers found.

They noted that because of the relatively small number of study participants, people shouldn't think that walking is worthless for decreasing breast cancer mortality. Instead, the takeaway should be that more is always better, at least when it comes to exercise.