Exercise and Cancer Prevention

201103headline.jpgPhysical activity can promote health and well-being in many ways. Researchers have established that regular physical activity can improve health by:

• Helping to control weight
• Maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints
• Reducing the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes
• Promoting psychological well-being.
• Reducing the risk of death from heart disease
• Reducing the risk of premature death

In addition to these health benefits, researchers are learning that physical activity can also affect the risk of cancer. There is convincing evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast. Several studies also have reported links between physical activity and a reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, and the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).

Adopting a healthier lifestyle is easier for people who live, work, play, or go to school in an environment that supports healthy behaviors. Not everyone understands the importance of engaging in enough regular physical activity. So, how much is enough exercise? A good place to start would be to engage in moderate to vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes a day — this is over and above normal daily activities like using the stairs instead of the elevator at your office or doing houseworkk. Even better, shoot for 45 to 60 minutes daily. For kids, the recommendation is 60 minutes or more of significant physical activity, enough to raise the heartrate meaningfully, at least 5 days a week.

Activities considered moderate are those that make you breathe as hard as you would during a brisk walk. This includes things like walking, biking, even housework and gardening. Vigorous activities make you use large muscle groups and make your heart beat faster, make you breathe faster and deeper, and also make you sweat.

Exercising, combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, is a choice we can make to improve our health, how we look and how we feel, now and for the future. For helpful tips about maintaining a healthy weight and a balanced lifestyle, please check AFCR's On Your Health educational series.