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An Active, Healthier Lifestyle

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 43 percent of U.S. adults fail to meet national physical activity guidelines. Being overweight increases the risk of breast, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, pancreatic, colorectal, thyroid, uterine, head and neck, and gallbladder cancers. It is likely that carrying excess weight increases the risk of developing many more cancers, such as lung, liver, cervical, ovarian, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, 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.


  • Eighteen percent of all newly diagnosed cancers are related to obesity, lack of physical activity, excess alcohol, and poor nutrition. Approximately 3 percent of cancers are attributed to physical inactivity.
  • It is estimated that more than 600,000 Americans will die from cancer this year, second only to heart disease.
  • Obesity will contribute to an estimated additional 500,000 U.S. cancer cases by 2030.
  • Being overweight can increase the risk of cancer by causing a higher production of hormones, including estrogen and insulin, which may stimulate cancer growth.
  • Twenty-six percent of adult Americans report no leisure-time activity, and nearly 70 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese. Evidence shows that losing just 5 to 10 percent of one’s body weight may result in improved health.
  • For those already fighting cancer, physical activity has been shown to improve quality of life. Numerous health benefits of exercise include a lower risk of heart disease; healthier bones, muscles, and joints; improved balance and circulation; reduced nausea and fatigue; a lower risk of anxiety and depression; improved self-esteem; improved capabilities to maintain social contacts and quality of life; and more control over weight.

Tips for Cancer Prevention

A moderate level of physical activity will enable individuals to exercise while easily maintaining a conversation and increase the heart rate. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines recommend healthy adults participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of 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 increments throughout the day of at least 10 minutes long, 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
  • Golfing  
  • 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 emailing.
  • Head to the gym for a workout over lunch.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Get involved in a sports or recreational team.
  • 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, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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