Want to Age Healthfully? Take a Hike.

What if you could do one simple thing today to boost your energy, your mood and your chances of growing older without chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer or heart disease? You’d do it, right?

In this week’s edition of Cancer Research Update you can read about a study showing that becoming more physically active in middle age can help reduce your risk for getting chronic diseases as you age. And even if you do eventually develop these diseases, being active can delay their onset, buying you extra years of good health.

The researchers found that the most fit folks had the least risk for chronic diseases, including colon cancer. What’s more, the biggest drop in cancer risk occurred among sedentary people who made a modest but crucial change, moving from couch potato to slightly active. That’s right — if you’re currently inactive, just doing a bit more than you’re doing now provides big benefits. In the study, this was true regardless of a subject’s weight.

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More Americans Walking, More Need To for Good Health and Cancer Prevention

Almost two-thirds of Americans now say we take walks, a figure that has nudged up slightly over the years and may mean more adults are likely to get the recommended amount of exercise, according to a government report released yesterday.

Walkers are almost three times more likely to meet the US physical activity guidelines than non-walkers, the report also found.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The finding bodes well for our health, given that regular physical activity reduces the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Yet even with these slight gains, only 48 percent of Americans meet the physical activity recommendations for good health, the report states. Government recommendations say we should be active at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate-intensity, such as brisk walking. (For cancer prevention, AICR recommends at least 30 minutes of daily activity.)

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Inactivity and Cancer: A Closer Look

As we highlighted yesterday, the British medical journal The Lancet has released a series of papers on inactivity and its link to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The authors of one paper used statistical methods to derive what they consider very conservative estimates of how many of these diseases could be prevented globally if everyone became more active (defined as meeting the WHO guidelines on physical activity, which match the Federal Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans).

The non-communicable diseases in question? Coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes … and cancer. Specifically, breast and colon cancers.

All of us at AICR, who have been working to raise awareness about the link between physical activity and lower cancer risk for many years, welcome these papers. It’s gratifying, given the strong evidence presented in the AICR/WCRF expert report and that continues to mount in the AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP), to finally see cancer taking its place alongside heart disease and diabetes on such a high-profile list.

Last year, at the AICR Annual Research Conference, we released estimates of the number of US cancers linked to inactivity. There are several ways to calculate such estimates, and the Lancet team used different statistical methods to arrive at their numbers, but the results are strikingly similar, and make it clearer than ever that being inactive has a major impact on cancer, on par with obesity and smoking. Continue reading