Exercise and Eat Right to Beat Cancer Risk

As so many of us are trying to adapt a healthier lifestyle in the New Year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is providing, with its newly updated set of recommendations, helpful tips on keeping cancer at bay.

The guidelines focus on the importance of regular physical activity, healthy nutrition, and tobacco-free life in preventing cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States.

While certain kinds of cancer are hereditary, often they are attributed to unhealthy lifestyle. According to ACS, each year one-third of all cancer deaths in this country are caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, and another third is linked to tobacco use – both smoking and chewing.

It’s true that in some cases of cancer, genetics may play a role, but much too often, bad habits are to blame. It is well known that inactivity, sedentary lifestyle, and unhealthy diet can contribute not only to many forms of cancer, but also to other preventable illnesses like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

To lower cancer risk, the ACS recommends not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day, as well as whole grains instead of refined grain products. Consumption of red and processed meat, as well as alcohol, should be limited, the ACS says.

How can a healthy diet and physical activity help keep cancer at bay?

In several ways, for example, exercise boosts the immune system so it is more resistant to various diseases. It may also alter levels of certain hormones that feed the growth and spread of tumors.

Another important reason is that “physical activity along with a calorie-restricted diet prevents obesity, a major risk factor for many types of cancer. ACS reports that doctors are seeing more patients with cancers linked to obesity, including pancreatic, esophageal, liver and kidney cancers.

In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research estimated in 2009 that over 100,000 cases of cancer cases diagnosed in this country each year are caused by excess body fat.

This is another example of a huge impact our lifestyle choices can have on our health and longevity. To maximize and maintain weight loss, we recommend fat reducing workouts like interval training in combination with total body strength exercises.

Interval training is very effective, with the added bonus that it continues to burn fat and calories for up to 24 to 36 hours after the workout is finished. As for strength training, while it may not burn as many calories during the session, it does boost the overall calorie expenditure and builds muscle which is a huge metabolism booster, not to mention all the other health benefits, such stronger muscles and bones.

What it all comes down to is combining healthy diet with regular physical activity may very well reduce our lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer.