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A mom, dad, and two young kids biking on a tree-lined pathMore and more evidence shows that exercise is a potent weapon against many diseases. There is a growing body of research, including findings from the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), that demonstrate the profound impact of physical activity on cancer prevention. 

Cancer is a complex disease influenced by many factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices. While we can’t control our genes, lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise play significant roles in cancer prevention. The AICR emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise being a key recommendation in the fight against cancer. 

Here are the ways that science is linking exercise to cancer prevention: 

  1. Weight Management: One of the primary ways exercise reduces cancer risk is through weight management. Obesity is a well-established risk factor for numerous cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer. By engaging in regular physical activity, individuals can achieve and support a healthy weight, thereby reducing their risk factors for cancer.
  2. Regulating Hormones: Physical activity influences hormone levels in the body like insulin and estrogen that can promote the growth of certain cancers. Exercise helps regulate these hormones, reducing the likelihood of cancer development.
  1. Boosting the Immune System: A strong immune system is crucial to your body’s ability to find and eliminate cancerous cells before they can multiply. Exercise has been shown to enhance immune function, improving your body’s ability to detect and destroy abnormal cells.
    A group of retirement-aged adults walking together in a park
  2. Reducing Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Regular exercise helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, creating an environment less conducive to cancer development.
  3. Improving Gut Health: Emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and cancer risk. Exercise has been shown to promote a healthy gut microbiome, which may play a role in reducing cancer risk, particularly colorectal cancer.

The AICR recommends at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, along with strength training exercises at least twice a week. This level of activity has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of several types of cancer. 

The benefits of exercise extend beyond cancer prevention! Regular physical activity is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, making it a cornerstone of overall health and well-being. 

Incorporating exercise into your daily routine doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, participating in group fitness classes, or doing a YouTube work out. The key is to find activities you enjoy and make them a regular part of your life.  

A woman in exercise clothing following along with a fitness video on her computer

Of course, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions. Your provider can give you personalized recommendations based on your needs and fitness level. 

To sum it up, the evidence linking exercise to cancer prevention is compelling and continues to grow. By prioritizing regular physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can significantly reduce our risk of developing cancer and improve our overall quality of life. As the AICR emphasizes, every step towards a more active lifestyle is a step towards cancer prevention.