Prevention Series 7 of 8 | Physical Activity Helps Lower Your Cancer Risk

by Natalie on August 2, 2011

The end of my series is approaching but we still have two very important prevention recommendations to discuss. I hope you will stay with me! The recommendations explored in this series are from the AICR/WCRF 2nd expert report on cancer prevention.

To catch all the other articles in the series, use the links below (listed in order):

I am very excited to discuss today’s recommendation! Physical activity is something we can all easily participate in, no matter what age, size or shape. It makes me happy to think that something so accessible can help prevent cancer.

The AICR recommendation is as follows, “be physically active for at least 30 minutes everyday”.

Researchers from the expert report found strong evidence that physical activity protects against several types of cancer, including breast cancer.

There two main ways physical activity helps protect against cancer. First, physical activity keeps our hormone levels at the appropriate levels. This is important because an excess of some hormones can increase your cancer risk. Secondly, physical activity prevents weight gain. We learned in the last segment that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things we can do to lower our cancer risk.

I also personally believe that physical activity reduces cancer risk by promoting an overall increase in personal well-being. Activity can help reduce stress and increase serotonin, the neurotransmitter involved in mood improvement.

Physical Activity Defined

The AICR defines physical activity as any movement using the skeletal muscles. For those not currently participating in any regular physical activity, it is recommended to start working towards 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity.

Moderate physical activity is anything that gets your heart beating a little faster and encourages a deeper breath. Examples include brisk walking, biking, dancing, swimming, and light jogging.

Researchers from the expert report did find additional benefit from increasing physical activity beyond 30 minutes per day. Therefore, it is recommended we continue to progress our activity to 60 minutes per day of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity each day.

Vigorous physical activity is defined as any movement that makes you warm up to the point of producing sweat. You may feel out of breath when performing this type of activity. Some examples include: running, aerobic group fitness, and team sport activities.

Beginning Physical Activity

It can be difficult to start an exercise program. Many people get discouraged thinking they have to start an intense workout routine and then never get around to starting it. It is very helpful and motivating to remember the many benefits received from just 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. This means you could start a walking program and still reduce your risk for cancer. I highly encourage walking. It is something that many of us can participate in and does not require and tools or memberships.

Tips For Success

  • Schedule activity into your day. Plan ahead the times you are able to be active.
  • Instead of watching TV, go for a walk or bike ride.
  • Seek strength in numbers. Check your local fitness center or park district for group fitness classes.
  • Set small achievable goals. Tell yourself you are going to exercise for only 10 minutes and see what happens. You will likely achieve more than you set out for.
  • If you are feeling unmotivated simply change into your exercise clothes and see what happens!
  • Dogs can be great motivators. They need to be walked too! Improve you and your dog’s health by taking regular walks.
  • Consider purchasing a pedometer. This device can measure the amount of steps you take in one day. This little, inexpensive tool can be very motivating.

The Bottom Line

GET MOVING! Improved health is just one step away.

One of my favorite forms of activity is yoga, especially the vinyasa flow type. I actually just graduated from my yoga teacher training so now I am able to teach this wonderful form of activity to others. Some of my other favorite activities include biking, hiking, walking, swimming and dancing.

What’s your favorite form of activity/exercise?! I would love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below.


photo by: timtak

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