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Physical Activity Reduces Colon Cancer Risk by 24 Percent

Rachel Morrell

Couple Running Down Gravel Road

Springtime is a season of renewal for all living things, including humans. With the arrival of warmer weather, it is just natural to want to go outside and expend some energy.

One of the most effective ways to prevent colon cancer and promote good health is to get daily exercise. Of all cancers, colon cancer is one of the most widely studied cancers with respect to physical activity. A meta-analysis of over 50 studies affirms the connection between exercise and colon cancer risk, and the most active individuals can lower colon cancer risk by 24 percent on average.

How Exercise Prevents Colon Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, exercise:

  • Prevents obesity
  • Lowers the risk of insulin resistance
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves immune system function
  • Lowers levels of insulin, estrogen and growth factors associated with development and progression of cancer
  • Reduces the time it takes for food to travel through the digestive system, which decreases gastrointestinal tract exposure to possible carcinogens (

How Much Exercise is Enough

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderately intensive aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorously intensive aerobic exercise per week to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Aerobic exercise involves using large muscle groups repetitively and vigorously for a sustained amount of time resulting in increased heart rate. Aerobic exercise includes cycling, swimming, power walking, jogging, using cardio machines, hiking, taking aerobics classes, dancing, cross country skiing and kickboxing.

Start Your Workout Routine Slowly

There is no best exercise for everyone, so begin by talking with your doctor about creating a safe exercise plan. Focus on activities that you enjoy and that you can perform for at least 30 minutes.

It may be tempting to push yourself to get immediate results but start slowly. You can systematically build toward your exercise goals. When performing your activity, ensure that you can easily carry on a conversation with someone else while you are exercising. This is called the “talk test” and it will help determine whether an activity is too intense or not.

You will be surprised at how exercise will boost your energy levels and overall mood. When done regularly, physical exercise will reduce your risk of developing colon adenomas, the type of colon growth that can develop into cancer. So call your doctor and make an appointment to talk about safe exercising, and then call a workout partner to keep you accountable.

And make sure to ask your doctor when you are due for your next colonoscopy. If you are 50 years of age or older and have not had a baseline colonoscopy, get connected with a board-certified gastroenterologist at one of our convenient ambulatory surgery centers.

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