Can Healthy Living Reduce Cancer Risk? (Part Two of Two)

Continued from Part One

Here are some more things that have been linked to cancer risk:

Physical inactivity

About 15 percent of Americans are sedentary (inactive) while an additional 38 to 40 percent fall below recommended guidelines for healthy physical activity.  Prolonged sitting has been linked to chronic medical problems, not to mention a shorter lifespan.  Of course, physical activity also decreases as we grow older and can also become linked with other risk factors such as smoking, poor nutrition, and substance abuse.  All of which can lead to an increased risk for different types of cancer.

For people who do exercise however, the health benefits can be enormous.  Three to four hours a week of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 20 to 40 percent and colon cancer by 40 percent.   People who are active are also 20 percent less likely to develop lung cancer and 30 percent less likely to develop endometrial cancer. 

Still, encouraging people to stay active isn't easy.  Though school-based programs to encourage young people to stay fit have been reasonably effective, programs to get older adults to become active are not as successful.  For people recovering from a heart attack  there are cardiac rehabilitation programs that can teach good exercise habits, including aerobic exercise, but many adults tend not to bother with such programs without a serious health scare to motivate them.  

Still, one promising approach that seems to work is the "buddy system."   Having family members or friends agreeing to exercise together helps prevent backsliding and can make exercise more enjoyable as well. 

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.





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