Well the WHO (world health organization) has just come out with very strong recommendation to help one prevent cancer. They recommend that one should exercise for at least 150 minutes a week in order to help reduce one’s chances of getting several of the main cancers. In fact, their estimates (and yes, this is only an estimate) is that one can improve their chances by 25% in avoiding both breast and colon cancer by doing this much physical activity per week. Another way of saying this is that if you do 150 minutes of exercise a week you may reduce your risk of getting some cancers by 25%. The exercise in question need not be intensive but can be moderate…e.g. a 30 minute brisk walk or jog five times a week.
This may alarm some people or may delight others. 150 minutes is a lot of time for many people. Indeed this is 2.5 hours per week. Actually, let’s not kid ourselves here, some people (not all) really don’t have so much time in their day…with kids, school, and a host of other activities that take up their time. Some people really don’t like to work out or exercise for that long if at all. Some people live in cramped areas and in cities where finding a decent place to walk may be tough. Anyhow, despite this….this is the recommendation and it is a very good idea for many reasons.
Let me tell you about some of these reasons. It has always been know that inactivity leads to weakened immune system function and cold fighting ability in general (although this is hard to quantify exactly). People who do not get much if any physical activity suffer from many ailments and in fact it is now known that physical inactivity is the fourth leading contributor to deaths worldwide. This means that for of all the risk factors out there such as smoking, eating processed foods, etc., not getting enough exercise is the fourth worst one to have. I am not sure what classifies as not enough activity, but those who sit around and watch TV all day and never go out (including children) are at high risk. It turns out that this is so common that in in three people in developed world are at risk and may be classified as low physical activity folks.
Where did that number come from and how accurate is the information that went behind their recommendation? The short answer is I don’t know. The longer answer is that a panel of experts were called together and they looked at all the published data out there and came up with this magic number of 150 minutes and the risks. This does remind me of something else I have read and seen and that is that one should walk at least 10,000 steps per day to be healthy and to lead a healthy life. This is one reason I personally went out and bought a pedometer, to see if I was achieving this. Those of you who work in offices all day, you might be sadly disappointed to see how you might be well under that threshold of steps. It is not easy to reach that number.
None of this is easy. It is all about making sometimes difficult lifestyle choices. We have no problems tweeting, facebooking, and eating by the computer or TV. We have no problems going for a beer in our cars, and eating unhealthy fried foods and watching movies in the theater. But, do we also go jogging, running, hiking, walking, rock climbing, biking, doing yoga consistently? Do we really make sure that we get enough exercise? If the answer is no, then that should perhaps become a priority. The movies can wait….facebook will still be there when you finish your jog. However, physical inactivity can slowly (or quickly) rob you of your health and your life…and then facebook will not be there anymore for you.
Anyhow, for those of you who don’t get much physical activity…time to SERIOUSLY consider doing so. Do you 150 hours minimum. Go out and have fun.
Thanks for reading….Dr. C
For more information about cancer and to get more resources….please see Cancer Made Simple!
- Moderate physical exercises cut cancer risk: WHO (news.bioscholar.com)
- World Cancer Day: 340,000 Cases Of Cancer A Year In The U.S. Could Be Prevented (huffingtonpost.com)
- Simple Steps to Prevent Common Cancers (webmd.com)
- New physical activity guidance can help reduce risk of breast, colon cancers (bespacific.com)
- Obesity-Related Cancers Hitting Developing Nations (aolhealth.com)