Exercising for at least five hours every week helps prevent cancers, study finds

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Researchers say avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is important to maintain good health

A new study conducted by researchers from the American Cancer Society is emphasizing the protective health benefits associated with regular exercise. According to their findings, consumers may lower their risk of some cancers, including stomach and endometrial cancers, by exercising for at least five hours every week. 

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the U.S. Cancer Statistics database to better understand how physical activity can work to reduce cancer risk. The team looked specifically at consumers aged 30 and older between 2013 and 2016; they assessed the risk for seven different cancers: stomach, kidney, esophageal, colon, bladder, breast, and endometrial. 

The researchers learned that regularly exercising for at least five hours per week does provide some protective health benefits related to cancer. However, they learned that the opposite was also true -- inactivity can increase the risk of cancer. In this study, 3% of all cancer cases, or nearly 47,000 cases, were a result of sedentary lifestyles.

Experts say exercise must be encouraged

The researchers also learned that there were different risk factors associated with physical activity for different types of cancers. Stomach cancers topped the list, as nearly 17% of all cases of stomach cancer were linked with inactivity. Comparatively, 11% of kidney cancer cases and nearly 4% of bladder cancer cases were associated with sedentary lifestyles. 

While these results highlight how beneficial exercise can be for long-term health, the researchers explained that the findings also emphasize disparities in access to recreational physical activity. 

“These findings underscore the need to encourage physical activity as a means of cancer prevention and implement individual -- and community-level interventions that address the various behavioral and socioeconomic barriers to recreational physical activity,” the researchers wrote. “Understanding and reducing the behavioral and socioeconomic barriers to physical activity is essential for optimizing intervention strategies targeting at-risk groups across the country.” 

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