Need a reason to lace up your sneakers and head out the door? Whether you prefer a neighborhood stroll, a yoga class, or a round of golf, exercise can do more than keep you fit—it may reduce your risk of developing cancer as well.
Previous research found a link between exercise and a lower risk for breast, endometrial, and colon cancer. But a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that exercise can reduce the risk for 10 other cancers as well, including lung, esophageal, and liver cancer.
To help prevent cancer, how active do you need to be? For optimal health, adults should aim for:
150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise each week
Muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week
Exercises that maintain or improve balance three times a week
Cardio exercise includes activity that uses major muscle groups, gets your heart rate up, and makes you breathe harder. Moderate-intensity activity includes things like:
Vigorous-intensity activity means you’re breathing hard and fast. It includes things like:
Running or jogging
Playing tennis or basketball
Muscle-strengthening exercises include:
Seated leg extensions
Balance exercises include:
Standing on one foot
Heel-to-toe walking (with arms out for balance)
Slow walking while raising knees high (with arms out for balance)
Here’s the great part about this form of cancer prevention: It doesn’t have to cost you a thing. Household chores, yard work, gardening, and walking all count as moderate-intensity activity.
If you have physical limitations, look for exercise options that will work for you. Adaptive yoga classes, water exercise, and moves that use exercise bands may all be a good fit.
No matter what your ability, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Exercise is only part of the cancer-prevention picture. The study also suggested that there may be a connection between a healthy body mass index, or BMI, and a lower risk for some types of cancer. Find your BMI by using this calculator.
Here’s how to interpret your BMI:
Underweight: BMI lower than 18.5
Normal: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
Obese: BMI higher than 30
Ask your doctor to check your BMI annually. If your BMI is outside the normal range, talk with your doctor about what you can do to raise or lower it. And see him or her annually to discuss how you can stay active and reduce your cancer risk.
The good news: Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy BMI. That’s one more benefit of being active! When you make exercise a priority, you’ll boost your odds of staying healthy—and keeping cancer at bay.
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