Exercise and Colon Cancer
A growing body of research is supporting the idea that the risk of colorectal cancer has significant ties to body weight and exercise. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute released the results of a decades-long study of over 100,000 women and 45,000 men. The men and women responded to biannual questionnaires regarding their physical health, diet, and exercise. When the reporting ended in 2004, the researchers examined in more detail thousands of cases of colorectal cancer in study participants. The results backed up what other studies have suggested: BMI and exercise have a strong correlation to cancer risk.
In the study, each increase of 11 pounds was associated with a 34% increase in the risk of colorectal cancer. Additionally, participants who did about 3 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week reduced their risk of colorectal cancer by about 20-30%. Researchers believe that higher levels of insulin in heavier people and those who perform little exercise may be part of the reason for this correlation.
No matter how much you exercise, you also need to eat a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight. To maintain your weight; you need to burn the same amount of calories (energy) you take in; to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat and drink.
In addition to basic math, what you eat may also play an impact in your colon cancer risk. For example, numerous studies have shown that antioxidants, found in brightly-colored fruits and vegetables like berries and greens, can reduce the risk of all cancers by boosting your body’s ability to keep its cells healthy. For colon health, a diet rich in fiber found in whole grains and produce is beneficial.
Although diet is an important aspect of controlling body weight, combining a healthy diet with regular exercise will produce the biggest reduction in colon cancer risk. Exercise is also usually easier to integrate into your life than weight loss. Exercising as little as 30 minutes a day, most days a week can make a difference. Any aerobic activity can reduce your risk, including:
More intense activities, like running and swimming, pack a bigger punch in a smaller amount of time. However, the right exercise for you is dependent on your prior physical health and what you prefer to do when you exercise. The best exercise is anything that works up a sweat that you’re willing to do on a regular basis.
Regular screening in at-risk populations, such as those over 50 and those with a familial history of colon cancer, is the final link in prevention. To schedule an appointment for your screening, please find a GI Alliance location near you.