Committing to a regular exercise routine is one of the most important lifestyle choices you can make today that can help guard yourself against many types of cancer. Truth is, most cancers are caused by lifestyle factors and not by genetics. In fact, up to 1/3 of all cancer-related deaths in the United States are due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Through breaking a sweat and getting your heart rate up, you proactively take control in weight maintenance, therefore avoiding a high body mass and trimming off excess body fat.
Understanding cancer risks
There are plenty of risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer. While some factors like aging are unavoidable, others such as the use of tobacco and being overweight are certainly in your full control.
Researchers have established that physical activity greatly affects a person’s likelihood of developing cancer. There is, in fact, convincing evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer and breast cancer. Additionally, scientific studies now show that there is also a positive link between regular physical activity and a reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, and the lining of the uterus.
Preventing cancer with physical activity
- Colon cancer
The relationship between regular exercise and colon cancer is widely researched not only in the United States but also around the world. In fact, studies consistently prove that adults who increase their physical activity, regardless of their BMI and age, can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by up to 30% compared to those who live sedentary lifestyles.
Regular physical activity prevents the development of colon cancer through its role in decreasing body fat, hormone metabolism, insulin regulation and changing the body’s digestive acids.
- Breast cancer
The role of exercise in reducing the incidence of breast cancer has also been extensively studied in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. In fact, research indicates that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not engage in any form exercise. Moreover, long-term studies even show that women who engage in physical activity for more than 3 hours per week have a 30% to 40% lower risk of breast cancer. This applies to all women, regardless of their family history or age.
Physical activity may prevent breast cancer by lowering the hormone levels particularly in premenopausal women and by lowering their levels of insulin to improve immune response.
- Lung cancer
Studies prove that an inverse relationship exists between increased physical activity and lung cancer risk, with individuals who are most physically active experiencing a greater reduction in risk. The biological mechanisms that come in play are still unclear, but it seems to suggest that people who engage in vigorous exercise are also less likely non-cigarette smokers.
- Endometrial cancer
Researchers have found that women who are physically active have a 20% to 40% reduced risk of endometrial cancer, with the greatest reduction in risk found among women who engage in vigorous exercise daily.
Physical activity plays a key role in the prevention of endometrial cancer in women, as it helps in the regulation of weight, as well as in the metabolism of sex hormones such as estrogen.
- Prostate cancer
While research studies are less consistent about the relationship between physical activity and prostate cancer, it is possible that men who are physically active have a reduced risk of prostate cancer due to the body’s strengthened immunity and antioxidant defense mechanisms.
- Bowel cancer
There are not a lot of studies that demonstrate the inverse relationship between exercise and bowel cancer. However, there is no question that physical activity helps control the level of inflammation in our bowels more effectively. Even if inflammation is our bodies’ normal way of reacting to injuries or infections, its frequent occurrence can lead to cell damage and increase the likelihood of cancer.
Tips to fight cancer with exercise
You don’t need to be marathoner or a professional bodybuilder to reap the benefits of exercise. In fact, all you need is at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.
Here are excellent ways to stay active:
- Hit the target of 10,000 steps per day.
If you’re finding it hard to commit to run or use the treadmill in the gym, swapping out the elevator in exchange for the stairs already makes for a good start. Better yet, walk or bike to work instead of taking the bus. If driving is your only option to get to work, park a little farther from your office. It also helps to wear a pedometer everyday to help build the habit.
- Enroll in a fitness class.
If you hate going to the gym, don’t force yourself. Instead, find a class you actually enjoy doing. By engaging in a group workout activity that you consider fun and exciting, the easier it will be for you to make it a regular habit.
- Find exercise videos on YouTube.
Nowadays, you can easily exercise right at the comfort of your home. The good news is that you can tailor-fit your workout according to your pace and activity level. Plus, you can even vary the type of workout video you watch everyday, so you won’t get bored and consider physical activity a chore.
- Be part of a sports team.
In an effort to promote workplace wellbeing, a lot of companies today organize sports events for their employees. Not only is it a way to bond with your co-workers, it also helps you get your heart rate up. If there’s none for you to join at work, find one in your community.
Many people view exercise as a way to lose weight or maintain their shape. Yet, the potential health benefits of regular exercise go beyond just a pleasing appearance. It is actually proven to prevent the development chronic diseases such as heart disease cancer and is also effective in increasing lifespan.