Research encourages physical activity as a way for individuals to avoid cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Although physical activity is highly recommended, going to the gym is not the only way to getting physically active.
Kathleen Trotter, a personal trainer and columnist for the Globe and Mail, as well as other publications, says it’s all about movement.
“When it comes to chronic disease and exercise, it’s about movement versus getting to the gym,” says Trotter. “Exercises connected to decreasing your risk of chronic diseases is not about looking like the fitness models. “
Physical activity is not the only thing that can help with prevention of cancer and other illnesses. According to the Canadian Cancer Society “about one-third of all cancers can be prevented by eating well, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight.”
“It’s a combination of both, how much fat you eat, your cholesterol levels – all of that are connected to your blood pressure, everything is connected to both eating and exercising,” says Trotter.
The most important aspect of being physically active when an individual is looking to lower their risks of certain illnesses is making sure there is constant blood circulation to the heart.
“That’s a really important point to make, that if you’re looking at exercise and your risk of chronic disease then you have to make sure that it is realistic exercise and movement goals. It’s not about only going to the gym three times a week, it’s about not sitting for 15-hours a day,” says Trotter.
Along with cancer, physical activity can help control the risks of depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Kanwal Khalid, 19, has both cancer and stroke running in her family. In order to help prevent her risks of having either one passed down to her, Khalid has been getting involved with fitness.
Not only does Khalid want to focus on weight loss, but having better overall health is one of her most important goals. After about a year of exercise, Khalid has noticed and increase in her strength, “I’ve become a lot stronger, also haven’t been getting any chest pain,” says Khalid.
Knowing that she has these illnesses running in her family, Khalid plans on living a healthier lifestyle by eating properly, scheduling workouts, and getting a goodnight’s sleep.
There has been research conducted that shows fitness can help with weight loss and obesity, these factors can increase an individual’s risk of cancer. Through physical activity, not only are the risks of weight gain decreased, but so are the risks of some cancers.
Christopher Politis is the lead of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP) program.
“The relationship between physical activity and cancer is more than just the direct protective benefits of physical activity against cancer,” says Politis. “But also how physical activity mitigates other cancer risk factors such as being overweight, obese, or sedentary.”
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) created an expert panel that researched how physical activity can lower risks of cancer.
“There is evidence that physical activity decreases the risk of colon cancer, postmenopause breast cancer and endometrium cancer,” says Politis. “In addition, cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, colon, rectum, kidney and gallbladder have all been linked with being overweight or obesity.”
It is recommended by WCRF and AIRC that everyone puts in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. It doesn’t have to be all at once and individuals can break it up amongst their day.
“Walking to and from work or school, or walking when you go to the store, can add up to the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Playing a sport like hockey or volleyball, running, swimming, or dancing are all examples of vigorous physical activity,” says Politis.
Organizations such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, and Canadian Partnership Against Cancer all recognize fitness as an important aspect to lowering risks of these illnesses. The Heart and Stroke Foundation gives different fitness tips for all age groups, and considers physical activity to “be a lifesaver – literally.” Among physical activity being a factor of cancer, alcohol, diet, and family history are all factors according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Regardless of whether or not an individual has overcome these illnesses, or has it running in their family, physical activity is highly recommended for everyone. Through healthy eating and proper exercise and movement, individuals can take some of the steps forward to lowering any risks of chronic illness that they might have.