by Melissa Breyer –
Public Domain Mosaic from the ancient Roman Villa Romana del Casale (286–305 AD)
It’s no secret that being active keeps you healthy, but new research expands the scope of its benefits.
If you don’t enjoy being physically active, add this to the list of annoying things you don’t want to hear. On the other hand, if you love to move, this may be music to your ears; exercising hypochondriacs, commence rejoicing! And for those of us who embrace the sustainable nature of preventative medicine, it’s more fuel for inspiring a healthy lifestyle.
A comprehensive new study concludes that in addition to the other known health benefits, exercise appears to substantially reduce the risk of developing 13 different varieties of cancer, reports The New York Times. Researchers have long held that active lifestyles can lessen one’s risk of getting cancer, but those associations were confirmed for just a few common types – like breast, colon and lung cancers.
For the new study, scientists from the National Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and a number of other international institutions analyzed data from a wealth of U.S. and European epidemiological health studies. All told they looked at 12 large-scale studies that included a whopping 1.44 million participants. From The Times:
The researchers focused on specific information for each of those 1.44 million people about whether they exercised, and how vigorously and how often. They also zeroed in on whether and when, after each study’s start, the participant had been diagnosed with any type of cancer.
Then, using elaborate statistical methods, they computed the role that exercise, and in particular, moderate or vigorous exercise such as brisk walking or jogging, seemed to be playing in people’s risks for cancer.
What they found was remarkable. For those who exercised moderately, even if they didn’t spend a lot of time doing it, the risk of developing 13 types of cancer was significantly less than those who were not active. As well as decreased association with breast, lung and colon cancers, they also found a reduced risk of tumors in the liver, esophagus, kidney, stomach, endometrium, blood, bone marrow, head and neck, rectum and bladder.
And the more people exercised, the more risk was reduced; between the top 10 percent and bottom 10 percent exercisers, the risk reduction was as much as 20 percent.
The ways that exercise reduces cancer risk is not fully understood, but Steven Moore, a researcher from the National Cancer Institute and the study leader, says that they suspect that changes in hormone levels, inflammation, digestion and overall energy balance are likely to play a role.
Whatever the reasons, “it has few side effects and doesn’t cost much,” says Moore. Now if they could just invent a pill to create the desire to exercise.