Alternative Therapies and Lifestyle

The Magic of Exercise: Feels Great, and Could Prevent Cancer. Have You Had Your Dose Today?

+ Pamela Friedman

We know that fitting exercise into your day can be a big challenge. Still, the evidence continues to pile up-exercise is one of the best ways to keep cancer out of your life.

“We now believe physical activity is a primary component of preventing cancer,” says Abby Bloch, chairwoman of the American Cancer Society’s advisory committee on nutrition and physical activity.

Let’s examine a few study results: 1) men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 percent less likely to die from cancer; 2) after the age of 30, exercising for more than an hour a week may help cut a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer; 3) regular exercise can help prevent intestinal cancer; 4) physical exercise prevents endometrial cancer; 5) exercise appears to improve survival and quality of life for lung cancer patients. And the list goes on and on. Have we convinced you yet?

What kind of exercise are we talking about, here? The majority of the studies were done on aerobic exercise-things like walking, biking, running, and swimming. (According to the cancer health center, taking the occasional flight of stairs or a short walk to the office isn’t good enough.) No doubt we’ll be hearing more about strength training in the future, but for now, if you can fit in at least 30 minutes of real, dedicated exercise five days a week, the American Cancer Society predicts you’ll be doing a lot to cut your cancer risk. But just how do you do that?

Starr Clearly, one of our experts, recommends you start by calling it something besides exercise, like movement, socializing, getting out, playing a game, anti-stress time, self-care, or what we like to call it-your daily dose of preventive medicine. Call it anything that brings up positive, good feelings. “I’m rollerblading with June today,” sounds a lot more fun than, “I have to exercise at 1:30.”

Join a class and you’re more likely to stick to your commitments. “Sorry, I have to get to my salsa class,” is the perfect excuse for getting out of other tasks. You can do the same with sports, if you’re on a softball, volleyball, bowling, tennis, racquetball, or soccer team.

The number one recommendation? Brisk walking. It has many benefits, is easy to do anywhere (especially if you’re going through chemo and don’t have a lot of energy), and you can do it alone or with friends. Take your headphones and listen to your favorite music or an audio book. Get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and you’ll find yourself feeling more energized. Try it on your lunch hour (grab a few colleagues and call it a business meeting), or first thing in the morning.

In the end, it’s more about your commitment to your own health than it is about your free time. Get clear on what’s stopping you, examine the evidence, and find a way to make exercise a priority. When you think about it, a half hour is really not that much. What kind of exercise appeals to you? Try scheduling it for next week, and get started. Even if you only do 15 minutes a day, that’s better than nothing, and will likely grow into 30 as your body starts to crave it. Once you get in the habit, you’ll find you miss it when you don’t work out, because exercise, in addition to being good for you, has a tendency to be addictive. That’s one obsession we can live with!

Do you have a great way to fit exercise into your busy life? Please share your tips!

Photo courtesy of Stephen Mitchell via

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