Research already shows that being active can reduce the risk of developing several cancers. Now comes a study that suggests for men, taking that brisk daily walk after a cancer diagnosis may lengthen your life.
The study was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, and it adds to a growing body of research suggesting that exercise can have significant health benefits for cancer survivors.
“The main take away message is that physical activity improves survival in men with cancer, says I-Min Lee, MD, ScD, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study.
”There have been previous studies, examining survival in breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer patients, showing similar findings. Our study included not only survivors of these cancers, but of other cancers “
For the study, Lee and her colleagues looked at data collected in 1988 from a group of about 1,000 male cancer survivors. On average the men had been diagnosed six years previously – in 1982. In 1988 the men reported on their activity habits. They also answered questions about their weight, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and what foods they ate. The data was updated five years later.
Study researchers then categorized the men according to how many calories they burned each week.
During the 12 years of follow-up, the more active men were, the less likely they were to die. This is after taking into account weight, when their parents died, and other factors linking to mortality.
The men in the most active group had a 48 percent lower risk of dying during the course of the study compared to the least active. When only looking at deaths from cancer, more physical activity also linked to lower risk of dying during the course of the study. (The same link held with heart disease.)
The most active men burned at least 3,000 calories a week. That’s about 8.5 hours of brisk walking, or 5.5 hours of jogging, says Lee. The least active men burned fewer than 500 calories a week.
In this study, the most common cancer among the men — almost a third — was prostate cancer. The next most common was colon cancer (16 percent). Other cancers included bladder, melanoma and lymphoma. But for both men and women survivors, an increasing body of research suggests that being active helps both physical and mental well-being. We’ve written about some of the research here.
In 2010, a group of experts came out with recommendations for survivors to avoid inactivity, and work towards the national activity recommendations.