Exercise CAN Prevent Cancer and More Is Better!
Last Monday’s blog discussed how even a minimal commitment to exercise could reduce the risk of cervical cancer. New data suggests that higher levels of leisure-time exercise and physical activity can protect against a host of cancers.
Data collected from 12 studies involving more than 1.44 million individuals revealed that with just a few exceptions, higher levels of moderate to vigorous leisure activity, versus lower levels, meant a lower risk of thirteen out of twenty six types of cancers. Specifically, more time devoted to leisure exercises was linked to a 42% lower risk of esophageal cancer, a 26% lower risk of lung cancer, and a 23% lower risk of kidney cancer.
The data was reviewed by researchers at the National Institute of Health and after adjusting for body weight, the researchers found lowered risk for ten out of thirteen cancers. After factoring out smoking, they found the data skewed only for lung cancer, but not for other smoking-related cancers.
The researchers did find that high levels of activity were tied to a 27% increased risk of malignant melanoma (sun exposure with inadequate sunblock might explain this) and a slightly increased risk (5%) of prostate cancer. Further investigations are necessary to further explain these findings.
Exercise effort was evaluated by a measurement called METs or Metabolic Equivalents, which represents the amount of energy a person expends per minute during a specific exercise. At rest, most people expend 1 MET per minute. In moderate activity, like walking, the average person uses 3 – 5.9 METs, and more vigorous exercise, like running, uses more than 6 METs.
In this study, subjects were asked about the overall type, intensity and duration of leisure activities. Most fell into a middle category of eight METs per hour per week which translates to about 150 minutes of moderate activity. The researchers felt the information was well collected and verified.
The study also looked at rare tumors and found that results were similar to common tumors. The researchers were heartened by this fact since it translates into a recommendation that applies to both common and rare tumors – exercise and more of it is beneficial across the cancer spectrum. The researchers acknowledged that exercise is just one healthy habit, and it is often accompanied by other healthy habits being practiced by individuals, so more research is needed to isolate solitary health habits and how those behaviors, individually, impact disease risk.
Certainly a commitment to a specific formula of exercise daily is critical to health and well-being. Research does suggest that a single bout of exercise daily is not enough to offset “sitting at work the rest of the day.” Most of us need additional movement and activity throughout the day to support good health and to limit disease. This study suggests just how important leisure activities are in helping to limit serious diseases like cancers.