Keep that Fitbit On: Exercise Helps Prevent Cancer

If you’ve seen the recent headlines warning that physical activity won’t help you lose weight, you may be wondering if your evening walk or daily workout is worth the time.

The answer is a resounding YES – do take that evening walk, keep your pedometer on and get your exercise in whether you want to lose weight or not.

In the last few weeks, there’s been one article after another with experts arguing about what’s most important for weight loss – diet or exercise. But getting lost in all this discussion is the overwhelming evidence that physical activity provides many health benefits independent of weight loss, including lowering risk for at least three cancers – endometrial, colorectal and postmenopausal breast.being-physically-active-decreases-risk-of-these-cancers

There’s no argument that getting to and staying a healthy weight is also important for cancer. But this debate misses the mark when it comes to shaping your health. It is true that you “can’t outrun a bad diet,” as the author of a Washington Post article “Take off that Fitbit” says. It’s also true that for better health you need to do more than just cut calories.

For example, in that Post article, the author cites a study showing that diet only led to more weight loss than a diet and exercise group. What he didn’t point out is that while the diet only group lost slightly more weight, they also lost more muscle and bone mass than the diet and exercise group. This is especially critical because the study’s participants were 65 and older. Exercise helps you keep your muscle and strong bones at any age.

Apps, tracking devices and pedometers have also been singled out as not being the answer to weight loss. But losing weight takes a lot of work – it is hard to eat less – and you need all the support you can get to succeed. So while these devices aren’t the answer, studies do show that tracking your food and exercise is one key component to successful weight loss. You can also use a notebook, calendar or checklist, what matters is keeping track of your progress.

For more tips on eating smarter, learn about AICR’s New American Plate way of eating to lower cancer risk and lose weight healthfully.


Is Red Meat “The Enemy”? AICR’s Take

raw meat on wooden plateContext.

It’s what every examination of the science of diet and health requires. For too long, authorities have demonized specific foods in an attempt to explain poor health outcomes, or anointed the latest “superfood” a panacea against disease.

That’s more or less the gist of a new article in the New York Times, “Red Meat is Not The Enemy.” The author suggests that experts historically “cherry-pick” data from individual studies to single out one nutrient or food in an attempt to determine its role in human health.

The Totality of Evidence

We agree that this can be a problem, and a misleading one. And that’s precisely why, at the American Institute for Cancer Research, when we perform our ongoing analyses of the global evidence on the connections between cancer risk and lifestyle (read: diet, weight, physical activity), we do so using systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses. (We call it the Continuous Update Project, or CUP.) Continue reading


Playing the Odds: What We Mean by “Prevention”

Cancer prevention: It’s what AICR is all about. We fund research, analyze data and produce recommendations, all with the same goal in mind — saving lives.

We want to reduce the burden tbigstock-Magnifying-Glass-Person-Search-5197835hat cancer places on the population, both in lives lost, as well as in the billions of dollars now spent on cancer care. We want to make cancer much, much more rare.

When researchers and policy makers talk about “cancer prevention,” that’s what they mean. They’re looking at the issue from the population level, with the goal of reducing the number of cases of cancer that occur within a given group.

When we at AICR talk to the research community or policy makers, “prevention” is the word we use, as its nuanced technical meaning is generally understood.

But when we talk to individuals – when we translate the science into practical, easy-to-understand information that people can use in their daily lives, we have to be careful. Continue reading