Sometimes, it can take every ounce of strength to generate the motivation to exercise, especially when it is cold outside. After all, how normal is it to want to wake up while it is dark and willingly become out-of-breath and exhausted? According to a recent study, we should all be doing more of this “crazy” behavior because physical exercise is a key component in preventing colon cancer.
For years, exercise has been linked to colon cancer prevention. However, the level of physical activity required to reduce the risk for colon cancer may be higher than previously predicted.
Consider this sobering statistic: almost one-third of adults worldwide are physically inactive. It is no coincidence that we are also seeing dramatic increases in rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In our increasingly industrialized, technology-based world, people are more likely to spend their adult years sitting behind desks than laboring in fields — and we are now reaping the results.
In a cohort study of over 43,000 U.S. males, researchers determined that aerobic exercise was more beneficial than resistance exercise. This means exercise that raises your heart rate is more beneficial than lifting weights when it comes to colon health. But how much exercise is enough?
The cohort study suggested that optimal exercise for colon cancer prevention translated to approximately 10 hours of walking per week at an average pace. The American Cancer Society recommends either 75 minutes of vigorously intense exercise or 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week.
Along with physical activity, sedentary behavior and cardiorespiratory fitness are two other distinct influencers in colon cancer risk and related outcomes (Source: National Library of Medicine). This means that the time we spend sitting (sedentary behavior), increases our risk of colon cancer regardless of our physical activity levels or whether we are obese.
A new year is a perfect time to set fresh goals. Ten hours of moderate walking per week might not sound reasonable right now, but you can gradually increase duration and intensity to reach that goal. Think creatively. What about investing in a treadmill desk or using your lunch hour to take a walk?
Talk to your primary care physician to determine ideal exercises for your age and fitness level. Colon health is achievable with healthy nutrition, regular exercise and routine colonoscopies. Your primary care physician can advise you as to when you should have your first colonoscopy. Most adults who are at average risk for colon cancer should get their first colonoscopy at age 50, but African Americans and those who have a family or personal history of polyps or colon cancer should be screened earlier.
So, get off the couch and get moving! You can start improving your colon health today — one step at a time!