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An Active, Healthier Lifestyle

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According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population fails to routinely exercise. It has been proven that being overweight increases the risk of postmenopausal breast and colorectal cancers, and it is likely that carrying excess weight increases the risk of developing many more cancers, such as endometrial, pancreatic, and aggressive prostate cancer. Establishing habits of healthy eating and physical activity to prevent being overweight or obese can reduce the risk of many cancers.

Statistics: 

  • Experts suggest up to 40 percent of several major cancers may be attributed to obesity and lack of physical activity. This includes colon, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, and esophageal cancer.
  • Up to 18,000 breast cancer deaths per year in women age 50 and older could be avoided by maintaining a body mass index lower than 25.
  • It is estimated that more than half of a million people die from cancer each year, and up to one third of these cancer cases were linked to poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and excess weight.
  • Being overweight can increase the risk of cancer by causing a higher production of hormones, including insulin, which may stimulate cancer growth.
  • One in four Americans has no physical activity or leisure time, and 64 percent of American adults are considered overweight. Evidence shows that losing just 5 to 10 percent of one’s body weight may result in improved health.
  • For those already battling cancer, physical activity has been shown to improve quality of life. There are numerous health benefits of exercise, including a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, healthier bones, muscles, and joints, a reduced risk of high blood pressure, and more control over weight.

Tips for Cancer Prevention 

A moderate level of physical activity will cause individuals to break a sweat and increase the heart rate. The American Cancer Society recommends that average, healthy adults participate in a minimum of 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise spread throughout the week to maintain health and reduce the risk of disease, including cancer. The periods of daily exercise may be broken up into 10-minute increments throughout the day, allowing for convenient and varied physical activities. Talk to your doctor about your current health condition and the amount of physical activity best for your body.

Examples of moderate exercise include:

  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Horseback riding
  • Golf
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Walking
  • Yoga

For vigorous exercise, individuals may do the following:

  • Aerobics
  • Weight Training
  • Basketball
  • Jogging
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Martial arts
  • Swimming

Those who have a relatively inactive lifestyle should increase activity levels slowly and should feel comfortable with a lower rate of physical activity before escalating a physical fitness routine. In cases where weight loss may be required, a longer period of exercise is needed in conjunction with a low-calorie diet to reduce cancer risk. Even small changes that increase the level of daily physical activity may reap health benefits.

Employ simple, creative strategies to increase activity levels:

  • Walk or ride a bike instead of taking a bus or car.
  • Walk to talk to people in the office instead of e mailing them.
  • Head to the gym for a 30-minute workout over lunch.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Wear a pedometer and deliberately increase steps throughout the day.
  • Plan physical activities on family vacations.
  • Walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle while watching television.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention