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Being fit halves your chance of cancer

Increasing the speed you can jog by 1 km/hour reduces your chance of developing a fatal form of cancer by 5 percent. American researchers at the University of Stanford report this in Preventive Medicine.

Between 1992 and 2012 the researchers tested the condition of about 5,000 male ex-military aged between 21 and 89. The average age of the participants was 60. The researchers then followed the soldiers for nearly a decade and recorded the deaths from cancer.

Just before the men joined the study, the researchers measured their endurance capacity using a standard maximal treadmill exercise test. They used this to assign the participants a CRF score: cardio-respiratory fitness. For men in their forties a score of 9 or lower indicates bad condition; for men in their fifties this is the case for a score of 8 or lower and for men in their sixties a score of 7 is bad news.

To give you an idea: improving CRF by 1 point corresponds to increase the speed at which you can jog by 1 km/hour.

The researchers divided the men over four different groups according to their CRF scores. The chance of developing a fatal form of cancer was almost a half less in the fittest group compared with the least fit group.

Being fit halves your chance of cancer

"Do you engage in some form of physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming, long enough to work up a sweat, get your heart thumping, or become short of breath at least 3 times per week?" The researchers asked the men this question when they first entered the study. The men who answered this question in the affirmative were categorised by the researchers as physically active.

The figure above shows that physical activity reduced the chance of developing a fatal form of cancer by 20 percent.

"Achieving moderate and high cardiorespiratory fitness levels and being physically active appear to have protective benefits against cancer-related death in men," the researchers conclude. "These findings underscore the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity as modifiable risk factors in primary prevention of cancer mortality."

Prev Med. 2017 Apr 13;100:89-94.

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