Here’s how exercise can help prevent cancer | Health

If someone told you that staying active could reduce your risk of getting 13 types of cancer, including breast, lung, bladder and kidney cancer, would that catch your attention?

In a 2016 review in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that’s exactly what they concluded. And the simplest form of exercise that almost all of us can do is walking. After all, walking is just great for us. It gives us energy to carry out our tasks in life, strengthens bones and muscles, reduces stress and helps us maintain a healthy weight.

In a three-year study of physical activity and cancer rates published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers from Emory University and the American Cancer Society concluded that we may have 46,000 fewer cancer cases per year by getting five hours of physical activity per week. That’s about 43 minutes a day.

In this study, researchers used a measure called PAF (population attributable fraction) to see which cancers are more likely to be inactive. The cancer most linked to inactivity was stomach cancer. And, of course, the numbers were different from state to state, with southern states reporting less activity than more active states in the Mountain West region. Hey Southerners, we need to do better!

Because moderate exercise is known to boost our immune system, which in turn can fight off disease, it seems like we should all follow this advice, especially because of COVID. When we exercise, our blood flow increases, our immune cells head to our circulation to do their job. If these immune cells do their job on a daily basis, it is beneficial for all of us. So if we try to get 43 active minutes a day, we have a better chance of beating the disease or preventing it altogether.

But it should also be mentioned that exercise also contributes to our mental health. The result is that we sleep better and feel happier when we take charge of our health. When you need a mood boost, exercise is always the best answer. Even when you just have to force yourself to do it. One thing’s for sure: you won’t regret getting up off that couch to exercise, but you’ll more than likely regret not.

Disease is a very complicated subject with many different angles and origins. If moderate exercise can slow, stop, or even prevent cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes, why is exercise even an option? I’ve said this before, but I wish doctors would prescribe exercise instead of so many drugs. If you’re just starting out, try small, easily achievable goals so you feel accomplished. Find an exercise that you really enjoy. If you can find other people who like it too, that’s even better. It will be much harder to quit if someone expects you to be there. Take control of your health before it takes control of you. Or before it’s too late.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is the Director of Fitness for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Its “Fitness over 50” column appears the third weekend of every month.

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