Q: Does exercise help reduce cancer risk regardless of my weight?
A: Studies now show that physical activity is a major step we can take to reduce cancer risk. Although part of that protection may come from its effect on weight, research suggests activity protects independent of weight. Evidence is strongest regarding physical activity and reduced risk of cancers of the colon, breast and endometrium. Research is less conclusive, but it could also play a role in reducing risk of other cancers, and in slowing prostate cancer growth in older men.
Regular physical activity helps keep insulin and sex hormones such as estrogen at healthy levels, and seems to decrease inflammation and improve immune function.
Eleven different cancers are now linked to excess body fat. Exercise alone tends to produce only modest weight loss, with most loss coming from changes in eating and drinking habits. However, physical activity plays a crucial role in reducing weight regain after loss, and in avoiding the gradual weight gain that is common with aging.
So whether or not you are overweight, including physical activity in your daily life is an important part of a strategy to reduce cancer risk. Enjoy a variety of physical activities throughout the week, including workouts, playing sports, or choosing walking or biking for transportation to work or errands. The options are diverse and the benefits are many!
View and share AICR’s infographic Physical Activity and Lower Cancer Risk.