A landmark study has been published this week in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). The study concluded that physical activity is associated with a lowered risk of very many types of cancers. More remarkably, this lowered risk of cancer even applies to smokers and those overweight.
The study was headed by Steven C. Moore, Ph.D. of the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) and the focus is part of the population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts. This remarkable study utilized 1.44 million people between the ages of 19 and 98 throughout the USA and Europe. The partakers were followed for an average of 11 years and a total of 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.
"Leisure-time physical activity" was determined to lower the risk of colon, breast, endometrial, esophageal, liver, kidney, head and neck, bladder cancer and leukemia. Leisure-time physical activity is defined as exercise done "at one's own discretion" and include walking, running, swimming and other moderate to vigorous intensity activities. The average duration of activity in the study was 150 minutes per week.
This level of activity mirrors, for overall good health, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. Alternatively, one can do 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. In addition, strength training is recommended twice per week but no specific time for these sessions are detailed.
Bottom line: we need to move! We all need to avoid extended stasis and incorporate a standard level of exercise or some activity (at the very least). That brings me to why a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon is commenting on this study: the activities that we should do.
To start, aerobic activity is crucial. This is activity that causes an increase in heart rate. The simplest option is brisk walking. This is a terrific start for someone that does not routinely participate in exercise or has an aversion. As one discovers the pleasure in activity, he or she can progress to swimming, biking, elliptical machine, or biking. These are all excellent options, as well.
Added strength training may sound uninteresting for some of you that do not enjoy going to the gym. But this does not have to be bench pressing hundreds of pounds amongst weight trainers that spend every day in the gym.
A good start is using some light weights at home and devoting just a few minutes 2 or 3 times per week. That can progress in time and some of you might enjoy joining a gym, eventually. If you are a member of gym but are not familiar with weight training then a Nautilus machine or Cable machine is an excellent option.
Older adults or those with chronic conditions, that preclude them from maximizing the recommendations, should be as active as their abilities allow. Of course, in these circumstances you should speak to you doctor before proceeding.
The crucial message that everyone should hold on to for all our lives is to keep moving. Stagnation breeds disease.