A Little Daily Exercise May Prevent Cancers

We are always looking for ways to reinforce our healthy habits. Exercising every day is difficult! Some people get a boost from exercise, but most people feel drained. And it’s hard to fit it into the day. But we know that it can help blood sugar and overall health. Finding more reasons to exercise can help encourage us to get moving more.

New research has found that 4.5 minutes of vigorous exercise daily can lower the risk of some cancers by up to 32 percent. The study used data from wearable devices that tracked the movement of 22,000 people. Their health records were watched for almost seven years to watch for cancer. Inactivity can increase the risk of breast, endometrial and colon cancer. Exercise lowers that risk.

The people in the study were “non-exercisers.” The vigorous activity seen in them came in bursts of about a minute in the form of activities like carrying heavy shopping, scrubbing the house and power walking. The researchers at the Univ. of Sydney called this type of movement Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity, or VILPA.

VILPA is a bit like applying the principles of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to your everyday life,” said lead author Prof. Emmanuel Stamatakis.

It’s quite remarkable to see that upping the intensity of daily tasks for as little as four to five minutes a day, done in short bursts of around one minute each, is linked to an overall reduction in cancer risk by up to 18 percent, and up to 32 percent for cancer types linked to physical activity,” said Prof. Stamatakis.  

He stressed that if you are someone who exercises, you shouldn’t switch over to VILPA. Instead, he said, it shows that any form of exercise, even the kind achieved through daily living, helps. If you go for a daily power walk, jog or bike ride, keep it up! That’s great!

Because the study is observational, it’s impossible to tell where the link is between exercise and cancer. It cannot prove cause and effect. However, other studies have shown that VILPA improves cardiorespiratory health. Cardiorespiratory health is linked to better blood sugar health and lower levels of inflammation, both of which are risk factors for cancer.

We often say that something is better than nothing in terms of physical activity, and this is really more evidence for that,” said Erika Rees-Punia, a senior principal scientist of epidemiology and behavioral research with the American Cancer Society. “It turns out that could even include super-short bursts of high-intensity movement that you just incorporate into your day anytime, anywhere. That’s really exciting, especially for people who maybe have absolutely no interest in starting an exercise program.”

The general principle is that if we sing while doing, the activity is of light intensity. If we can speak but not sing, it is of moderate intensity. If we can hardly speak more than a few words, we are hitting the vigorous intensity zone,” Stamatakis said. “This is high-quality movement which likely has a great health-enhancing potential if repeated regularly.”  

With all this in mind, try to get out of breath a few times daily! Go sweep your front steps, carry a heavy load of laundry or play with the kids in your life. A few minutes of getting your heart pumping will help your blood sugar and lower your cancer risk.

Banner image: RDNE Stock project via Pexels

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