By Sylvie Marjanowicz, CPT (Your Health Magazine)
You’ve heard for years that physical activity is important for your health. You may even know that exercise is important when it comes to cancer. It may lower cancer risk by helping control weight, reduce sex hormones or insulin, and strengthen the immune system; and it can boost quality of life during cancer treatment.
Now, a new study from researchers at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute links exercise with a lower risk of 13 specific types of cancer.
That’s big news because previous studies have investigated the link between physical activity and cancer risk, and results were inconclusive for most cancer types. The exceptions were colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. This new study, published May 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a significantly decreased risk of not only these three cancers, but also 10 others cancers to include: esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia.
In addition, physical activity was strongly associated with a decreased risk of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, as well as cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and lung (in current and former smokers).
You don’t have to be a marathon runner to consider yourself physically active. Walking at about three MPH (or 20 minutes per mile) is considered moderate intensity. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week (or a combination of these). You can get in the recommended activity levels by just walking on your lunch break for 30 minutes, five days a week.
One of the ways in which physical activity may lower risk of cancer is through weight maintenance. However, many other biologic processes are affected by physical activity that is independent of body weight. For example, physical activity is associated with lower estrogen and insulin levels, both of which may lower the risk of some types of cancer.
Physical activity may have an even more far-reaching benefit for cancer prevention. Health professionals should encourage all individuals to adopt a physically active lifestyle. Hopefully this will further motivate people to become active, whether going for a walk, swimming, riding a bike, jogging, or dancing. Find what you love to do and get active.