Study: Physical Activity can Lessen Risk for 13 Cancer Types

Man in Bike - Physical Activity to lessen cancer riskThe National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the American Cancer Society recently conducted a study on the relationship between physical activity and cancer risk. The results showed that leisure-time physical activity can help reduce risk from 13 types of cancer.

The study was published in May of this year. 1.44 million individuals between the ages of 19 to 98 from the United States and Europe have participated in the research. They were monitored for an average of 11 years and during such time, 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.

In the past, there were other studies done to find the link between cancer risk and physical activity. While some of them showed reduced risks for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, the relationship with other cancer types were inconclusive mainly because of the limited number of respondents who participated.


The study confirmed the findings of previous studies that physical activity can be linked to a lower risk of colon, breast, and entometrial cancer. But more than that, it also detected the relationship between leisure time exercises with 10 other types of cancer including esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. Myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder also showed reduced risks but the significance is not as strong. Meanwhile, lower risk for lung cancer is also found, but it’s only among current and former smokers.


“This study linking physical activity to 10 additional cancers shows its impact may be even more relevant, and that physical activity has far reaching value for cancer prevention,” said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., a co-author from the American Cancer Society.

The study is a large-scale effort of the Physical Activity Collaboration of NCI’s Cohort Consortium, with the goal of finding out the relationship between physical activity and other diseases through standardized and analytical methods. The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

What is Leisure-Time Physical Activity

Leisure-time physical activity refers to exercise done out of a person’s own discretion and initiative with the goal of improving fitness and health. Examples are walking, running, swimming and other moderate to vigorous activities. The average duration of physical activity recorded in the study is 150 minutes per week, which is similar to the recommended level of physical activity in the United States.

The Health Advantages of Physical Activity

Aside from reduced cancer risk, physical activity also has several health benefits that will help your body become more resilient and fit.

  • Weight Control – Aside from diet, physical activity also plays an important role in losing or maintaining weight. It helps burn calories and shed off extra pounds. If you want to step up your weight management, it’s essential to squeeze in time for exercise or physical activity in your schedule.
  • Bone and muscle strength – Physical activity helps you become more agile and protects your joints and bones and maintain muscle mass and strength. Working out can help slow done the deterioration of bone density and help ensure that you’re physically capable of carrying out different tasks and activities with lower risks of getting injured.
  • Improved mental health – Working out can help improve your thinking, learning and judgment skills and reduce your risk of depression. Working out can also help you have better quality of sleep, which means that your body can recuperate and regain its strength more efficiently. If you’re working out for 30 to 60 minutes with a frequency of 3 to 5 times a week, you can expect to reap these mental health benefits.
  • Longevity – Research shows that physical activity can help you live longer and prevent early deaths from heart diseases and certain cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are active for approximately seven hours a week can reduce their chances of dying early by 40%. Meanwhile, those who participate in moderate physical activities for at least 150 minutes a week have lower chances of early deaths as well.
  • Reduced risk for certain diseases – Diseases can get in the way of a good quality of life. If you want to keep sickness at bay, try to be more physically active. Exercise can help reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancer.

How to Make Physical Activity Fun and Exciting

The reason why some people don’t stay committed to exercising is because it became too boring or began to feel like a chore. Since physical activity is essential to health and overall well-being, it’s important to stay committed to a workout routine. Here are some tips on how you can make physical activity fun and turn it into something that you’ll look forward to.

  • Start small. You don’t have to begin with arduous exercises for prolonged periods of times. If you begin in such way, you will just end up getting burnt out or worse, injuring yourself. So start small. Begin with light exercises and simple activities and build up on the routine as you become more used to exercising.
  • Go for Exergames. These are video games that prompts you to get moving. It can be fun, yet it can be a good way to jumpstart and promote physical activity among your family and friends.
  • Workout with a friend. Sometimes, all the motivation you need come will come from an exercise buddy. Workout times can become more fun when you’re sweating it our with a friend or within a social setup.
  • Explore the outdoors. Physical activity is not confined within the four corners of a gym. You can get your dose of exercise through outdoor activities such as hiking, playing Frisbee, kayaking, swimming and paddle boarding.
  • Reward yourself. For each time you reach a fitness goal or become successful at going through your exercise routine for the day, you can reward yourself. It could be as simple as your favorite cup of tea or something more exciting like buying an item that you’ve been coveting for a while such as a book or shirt.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a complex set of exercises, it can be simple workout routines that can help your body to get moving. If you want to improve your health and steer clear of diseases like cancer, try to increase your level of physical activity and enjoy a longer and healthier life with your loved ones.


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