FITNESS
August 12, 2009

Activity Cuts Cancer Risk

Working out with moderate to high intensity for at least 30 minutes per day may cut your overall risk of cancer by half. Even when other variables...

According to a new study from Finland, working out with moderate to high intensity for at least 30 minutes per day may cut your overall risk of cancer by half. The researchers tracked participants’ oxygen consumption for a year and found a strong link between this measure and the risk of dying from cancer.

The study, led by Jari A. Laukkanen, followed 2,560 middle−aged (42−61) Finnish men, for an average of 16.7 years. None had any history of cancer when the study began. Researchers measured the participants’ average amount of daily activity using a survey called the 12−Month Leisure−Time Physical Activity Questionnaire, which assessed the men’s activity levels over each month. The researchers calculated the average amount of oxygen consumed for each activity: jogging, cycling, swimming, yard and work/gardening/farming.

Men who exercised moderately to vigorously for 30 minutes or more per day were half as likely to die from cancer as men who did not exercise at this level.

By the end of the study, 181 of the participants had died from various forms of cancer. Men in the highest quartile for oxygen consumption (measured in metabolic units) had a significantly lower rate of cancer mortality than those in the lowest group. An increase of 1.2 metabolic units was associated with a 50% reduced risk of cancer−related deaths, mostly from lung and gastrointestinal cancers. In other words, men who exercised moderately to vigorously for 30 minutes or more per day were half as likely to die from cancer as men who did not exercise at this level.

These results held true even after the researchers Control for other lifestyle variables, like smoking, drinking alcohol, age, body mass index, and fat and fiber intake.

Laukkanen and his team say that “this prospective study indicates that the mean intensity of leisure−time physical activity is inversely and independently associated with the risk of premature death from cancer, mainly due to lung and gastrointestinal cancers in men.” They add that the “intensity of leisure−time physical activity should be at least moderate so that beneficial effect of physical activity for reducing overall cancer mortality can be achieved.” There are many activities that are fun and physically challenging as well – so it can’t hurt to add a little leisure−time activity to one’s schedule, if at all possible.

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