Exercise to keep cancer at bay

Experts say that regular exercise not only keeps weight in check and the heart healthy but can also play a key role in preventing cancer.

The word cancer conjures up an image of pain, hopelessness and passivity that we all can do without. The disease can strike anyone without prior warning, but there is compelling evidence that the risk of cancer can be reduced greatly by exercising.

In India, nearly 2.5 million people are grappling with cancer and about eight lakh new cases crop up every year. The American Cancer Society estimates that up to one-third of cancer-related deaths are due to obesity and sedentary lifestyle, including two of the most common cancers, breast and colon.

A Finnish study revealed that increased oxygen consumption associated with moderate-to-high-intensity exercise may reduce cancer risk considerably. Around 2,560 men (with no history of cancer), aged 42 to 61 participated in the study in which their leisure time physical activity was assessed over one year.

Regular exercise changes the way the immune system deals with cancer by boosting adrenaline and anti-cancer immune functions that, together, can lower the severity of the disease or fight it off altogether. In addition, physical activity also reduces ‘intra-abdominal” fat, a risk factor for increasing insulin levels, promoting the growth of cancer cells and cholesterol levels.

American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, or an equivalent combination preferably spread throughout the week.

Stepping up for regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, biking, climbing stairs can help steer you clear of cancer.

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