Exercise and Health
Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and to lower your risk for many types of cancer, as well as other diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Physical activity in any form can prevent cancer by helping you maintain a healthy weight and burn belly fat. Plus, it keeps hormones at a healthy level, reduces stress, gets your blood flowing to help your immune system prevent infections and keeps the digestive system healthy, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
Best of all, just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day can make a difference. If you can pack in 60 minutes a day, that's even better.
What Counts as Exercise?
You don't have to go to the gym every day or do sprints to get your 30-60 minutes of physical activity. In fact, everyday activities can count as exercise, but only if you do them with at least a moderate intensity. You should be working enough to raise your heart rate and increase your breathing.
Try these strategies to work more physical activity into your day:
- Get on or off the bus or train one stop early and walk briskly the rest of the way
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Park on the far end of the parking lot so you have to walk further to reach your destination
- Go dancing with your partner or friends
- Walk briskly around the mall two or three times before you begin shopping
- Mow your lawn
- Wash your car
What Types of Exercise are Most Beneficial?
To reap the rewards of exercise, it's best to alternate everyday activities that increase your heart rate with cardio and strength training workouts.
Cardiovascular activities like jogging, brisk walking or some types of yoga get your heart pumping and your blood flowing, while strength training, like lifting weights, can prevent muscle loss, build bone density and help your body burn calories faster so you stay at a healthy weight.
The AICR recommends doing cardio workouts every day and strength training three times a week. If you have trouble motivating yourself to workout or just want to mix things up, try MD Anderson's 7-day exercise plan, which includes options for beginners as well as more advanced exercisers. Or try group exercise classes like spinning, yoga or strength training.
No matter what kind of exercise you do, be sure to stretch the muscles you're working. Stretching your legs, arms and back can help reduce soreness and help prevent muscle tears and injuries.
I Haven't Worked Out in Awhile. What Can I Do?
If you're new to exercise or haven't exercised in awhile, start slowly. Gradually work up to exercising for 30 minutes. Try doing your exercise in 10-minute intervals throughout the day. Studies suggest this approach may be as good as 30 continuous minutes of moderate intensity exercise.
It's normal to be sore at first, but the soreness shouldn’t last more than a day or so.
After you’ve made it to 30 minutes, increase your exercise time to 60 minutes a day or rev up the intensity of your 30-minute workout.
How Can I Get My Kids to be More Active?
By encouraging your children to exercise every day, you can help them maintain a healthy weight and lead a healthy lifestyle that will help prevent diseases like cancer later in life.
As soon as your children can walk, they should be up and moving. Kids under six should enjoy natural, daily physical activity like running, jumping and skipping. And, kids ages six to 17 should exercise at an intensity high enough to raise their heart rate for at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week.
Try these tips to encourage your kids to get moving:
Be a role model: If your kids see you being physically active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives.
Use exercise as transportation: Walk or bike with your kids to school, to visit friends or to the park.
Involve the whole family in activities: Invite everyone to go hiking, biking, roller skating, or to play basketball or soccer.
Focus on fun: Pack in lots of walking during trips to the zoo, park or miniature-golf course.
Use competition as a motivator: Kids love to compete. So, make it a contest between you and the kids to see who can run faster, do more push-ups, sit-ups or jumping jacks and give the winner non-food-related prizes. And remember, winning often motivates kids, so don't be afraid to "lose" once in a while.
Include kids in household activities: Many household chores are also great opportunities to sneak in a little physical activity. Encourage physical activity by having your kids help out with washing the dog or the car, or mowing the lawn.
Give gifts that promote physical activity: Rollerblades, bicycles, ice skates, soccer balls and even the Wii Fit make great gifts for birthdays and holidays. Even better, they encourage your kids to get moving.
Limit TV and computer time: Offer them active options, like joining a local recreation center or after-school program, or taking lessons in a sport they enjoy. When your family does watch TV together, get everyone moving during commercial breaks by doing jumping jacks, hula-hooping or jumping rope.
Am I Overweight? Is My Child Overweight?
Exercise can help prevent cancer regardless of how much you weigh. But it's particularly important for obese adults and children, who may face a higher risk of many cancers.
Use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to determine whether you are at a healthy weight. Check your child’s BMI with the CDC's child and teen BMI calculator.