Cancer Prevention: The Benefits of Physical Activity

Cancer Prevention: The Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical activity is part of any healthy lifestyle, but recent studies show a relationship between physical activity and a lowered risk of certain cancers.

Which Cancers are Affected?

Three cancers with most substantial evidence showing benefits of physical activity are:

  • Colon Cancer – Of all cancers, colon cancer has been most extensively researched in relation to physical activity. A meta-analysis of 52 studies found that the most physically active people had a 24% lower risk of colon cancer than those who weren’t physically active.
  • Breast Cancer – On average, physical activity is associated with a 12% decrease of breast cancer risk. While the reduced risk is present across the board, it is especially prevalent for postmenopausal breast cancer.
  • Endometrial Cancer – The average risk reduction for endometrial cancer is 20% among those with a high physical activity level. This might be because obesity is a known risk factor for endometrial cancer, and physical activity is known to prevent obesity.

Additionally, limited evidence has shown that physical exercise is linked to lower risk of ten other types of cancer.

Why Does Physical Activity Help?

Performing physical activity affects the biology of your body in more ways than you might imagine.

Exercise reduces inflammation, improves your immune system and lowers the levels of some hormones associated with cancer development, such as insulin and estrogen.

Reasons for a reduced risk of colon cancer are especially clear. Physical activity alters your body’s metabolism of bile acids, and also allows your body to digest food more quickly. This means you’re exposed to possible carcinogens for a shorter period of time.

How Much Should You Exercise?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should be physically active for 75-150 minutes each week. The specific length of time depends on the intensity of your physical activity.

It’s also important to note that excessive sedentary behavior can be a risk factor for developing some chronic conditions including cancer.