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Exercise Beats Cancer

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

With more than 40% of Americans diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, it’s highly likely that you or someone you know has experienced cancer.  For this reason, we have put a lot of effort into finding cures and treatments for this devastating disease, and now, we are finally seeing some glimmer of hope in the statistics, especially in terms of prevention.  It seems that an active lifestyle, a healthy weight, and a smart diet can do a lot to reduce the risk of cancer.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, 1/3 of cancers can actually be prevented if Americans were to commit to being physically active every day for at least 30 minutes, if they were to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives, and if their diet would include mostly plant foods, limited red meat, and as little processed meat as possible.  If that’s not enough motivation to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle, I don’t know what is!  Unfortunately, the American diet is packed with processed meats and other unhealthy foods and our culture is getting less active by the generation.  Hopefully, these statistics are enough to create a paradigm shift and force Americans to look at the long-term effects of their choices.

For those of us in our middle-aged years already, much of the damage has already been done, but that doesn’t mean we can’t turn it around.  In fact, a recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed that physical activity was linked to lower rates of breast and colon cancer deaths.  They found that cancer survivors, particularly breast cancer survivors, enjoyed longer lives when they exercised regularly, as compared to those who did not.  Exercise was also found to prevent reoccurring cancers. They believe the results stem from the way regular exercise effects insulin levels, inflammation, and immunity, but more studies are planned to better understand these recent results.

Between our American lifestyle, family histories, and the sheer prevalence of the disease, our risk factors for cancer only seem to be going up.  Now that we know that simply being healthy is just one way to reduce our risk though, maybe we can finally commit to getting out there and getting active.  How many more reasons do we need to take care of ourselves.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.