The numbers are in and I don’t know about you, but I find them very concerning. I’m not trying to breed fear; I am trying to educate because I believe that education is how we are going to change how people think and change how people live. And then maybe, just maybe, we can start to change those numbers I was talking about.
So what are these numbers I am referring to? They are the statistics related to the incidence of colon cancer. Right now in Canada colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and it is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer. We have to ask ourselves why these numbers are so high and what can we do to change this?
There are significant mitigating factors in the development of colon cancer. Of concern are lifestyle factors that are well within our ability to control. These include nutrition and tobacco use. The first two seem logical – eat better and don’t smoke. The third factor, physical activity, is one that may not be thought of as having a relationship to cancer.
Studies have shown compelling evidence that when moderate or high intensity physical activity is increased, cancer risk is decreased. The most convincing data has been related to colon cancer as well as breast cancer. In fact, a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that the most physically active people had a 24% decrease in their risk of colon cancer than less active individuals.
Ways that regular exercise lowers your risk of developing colon cancer:
- Prevents obesity which can lead to insulin resistance
- Reduces inflammation in the body
- Builds the immune system
- Helps to move food through the digestive tract therefore decreasing the time that food sits in the tract and exposure to possible carcinogens
In wanting to be proactive and preventative how do we know what constitutes physical activity?
Physical activity is defined as any movement that uses skeletal muscles and requires more energy than when resting. Canadian physical activity guidelines recommend that adults 18-64 years of age include 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week in cycles of at least 10 minutes or more. To follow this recommendation we need to understand exactly what moderate and vigorous activities are.
Moderate activity basically involves activities like a brisk walk or a bike ride that will cause you to sweat a little and breath harder than when resting. To increase this to vigorous activity means you would sweat and be “out of breath” as would happen when jogging or cross country skiing.
Ways to become more physically active:
- join weekday walk or run group
- go for a brisk walk around the block after dinner
- sign up for a dance class
- bike or walk to work
- do yard work like raking the lawn
- train for and participate in a charity walk or run
- try a new sport or revisit an old one
- get the family involved to make it a group activity that is fun for everyone
So, do yourself and your body a favour whether it is in the name of cancer prevention or just getting healthy. Find something that gets you moving and make it part of your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be intensive, complicated or expensive; you just have to move.