Exercise & cancer: What’s the impact

The state of Tennessee has the 14th highest obesity rate in the nation. Up to a third of cancer-related deaths are due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Add those two facts up, and you have a lethal combination.

Fortunately, you can take positive steps to reduce your risk of cancer. In fact, you can take literal steps.

You know physical activity is good for your heart. But you can also lower your risk for developing many types of cancer with regular exercise.

Check out the facts on exercise and cancer:

You can significantly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Many studies have shown that women who exercise are 30 to 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than their peers.

Why? Because exercise lowers the amount of estrogen in the blood. High estrogen levels place women at an increased risk for breast cancer. In addition to lowering estrogen levels, physical activity also impacts other cancer growth factors, such as insulin.

If you have a daughter, encourage her to be physically active beginning when she’s young. Studies have found that high levels of activity during adolescence may be especially helpful in lowering breast cancer risk.

You can also reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. More than 50 studies have looked at the impact of exercise on colon cancer. Results have shown that those who exercise regularly reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 20 to 30 percent. How much exercise is needed? The studies found that 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day is needed to protect against colon cancer.

Physical activity seems to impact the development of colon cancer in multiple ways. Regular exercise helps decrease body fat, insulin levels and other cancer growth factors, along with inflammation, which is a risk factor for colon cancer.

Evidence shows that exercise is especially important for menopausal women. Did you know that the body has different kinds of fat? Some are good and necessary, but others, such as visceral or “deep” fat, are dangerous for your health.

This type of fat wraps itself around your inner organs and raises your insulin levels. And menopausal women tend to develop this kind of fat.

The best way to reduce bad fat in the body is to exercise. You’ll limit visceral fat, which will lower your risk of developing cancer and other serious health issues.

In addition to lowering your risk of cancer, exercise can also improve your chances for survival if you’re diagnosed. Studies have shown that regular physical activity during cancer treatment can help improve quality of life, reduce fatigue and give you energy.

In the past, those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy would have been told to rest and reduce their activity. However, for cancer patients who aren’t experiencing excessive pain, rapid heart rate or shortness of breath, exercise is safe and helpful.

If you were a regular exerciser before your diagnosis, you will likely need to modify your regimen while undergoing treatment. But you can still aim to get regular cardiac, strength and balance training, which will help you stay mobile and active.

You may even experience less nausea, lowered levels of anxiety and improved blood flow.

Before beginning an exercise routine, it’s important to talk with your doctor about what type of exercise is right for you. Looking for a doctor to meet your needs? You can find one here.