We are constantly bombarded with different products and plans that are quick fixes to lose weight. However, by starting a dedicated workout regimen and a healthy diet plan, fitting into your old clothes better, and having bursts of endorphins (the happy hormone!), you actually reduce your risk for a handful of cancers and a wide range of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) diseases.1,2
How is this possible and how can you be sure that you are reducing your risk of the top two top causes of death in the United States?
What the top scientists have found:
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has found that the majority of cardiovascular disease and cancer risk comes from a variety of choices that we make every day. In fact, approximately 171,600 of deaths from cancer alone each year are directly related to poor diet, and poor physical health.1 By maintaining a healthy diet and keeping weight at a relatively healthy level, you can significantly reduce your risk of breast, colon, endometrium, esophageal, and kidney cancers. 1 In addition, exercise can be used to reverse, lower the severity, or prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, blood vessel diseases, strokes, and heart failure.1
A long term study found that out of 2,000 subjects, 42% fewer physically active people died from cancer and cardiovascular diseases than sedentary people.3 In addition, this study found that active people were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease 33% less than those who remained sedentary.3 With that said, clearly exercise is causing some major effects in our bodies that protects us from some of the most deadly diseases in the world.
Why an unhealthy lifestyle causes disease:
High levels of sugar and fat in our blood stream (which you might’ve heard referred to as triglycerides or cholesterol), as well as stored fat cause an environment that lay the grounds for these deadly diseases to form.2 An easy way to imagine this is to think of the cardiovascular system as a water pipeline in your home. A well-functioning pipeline (blood vessels) and water pump (heart) will send water (blood) smoothly and efficiently throughout the system with minimal to no issues. However, the more junk (low quality fats in the blood stream) in a pipe, the harder it is for water to pass. That causes the water pump to push water faster and harder with each pump to circulate the water, causing high levels of pressure throughout the system.
Now, imagine that this junk in the pipe was also causing chemicals (hormones) to spread and start to create other issues (cancers) throughout the entire system. Something has to give.
So what exactly does exercise do?
As scary as that may sound, exercise can significantly reverse and prevent all of these problems! With consistent exercise, our hearts actually get stronger and begin to pump more blood out with each beat without working any harder, which nearly eliminates overuse diseases! In addition, our heart beat becomes more regular, which allows it to take higher levels of stress without the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, and other heart complications.2
As for the fat in the blood stream, by consistently working out, not only will your body eventually burn stored fat cells for energy, but your muscles absorb sugars more easily during and after exercise. Lower sugar in the blood stream means there’s less sugar to become fat, either stored or floating in the blood stream. Less stored fat means lower levels of the hormones which have been linked to certain cancers.2
Studies have shown that a healthy diet and exercise will significantly increase the “good cholesterol” (referred to as high density lipoprotein or HDL) more than just eating healthily.2 Additionally, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats actually remove damaging cholesterol and triglycerides from your blood stream and move them to areas of the body to be processed safely!
So how does this relate to you and your life?
The ACS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activities a week, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, or some combination of the two
Moderate exercise: going a brisk walk, a light yoga class, bicycling leisurely
Vigorous exercise: Jogging or running, weight training, TRX, kickboxing, boot camp
It is important for you guys to realize that more vigorous physical activity you perform, the lower your risk will be (as long as you are adhering to safe exercise levels).1,2 However, don’t forget that little changes to your daily life will cause additional improvements to your health1!
Easy ways to increase your daily activity level and further reduce your risk: Try to limit the amount of time you’re sitting down at home and at the office by standing up every hour or so, take the stairs whenever possible, and walk around while speaking on the phone instead of sitting down.
So, if you haven’t been in the gym in a few weeks… LET’S GO. It doesn’t take much to improve your health dramatically and continue to work on your goals. You need help? Have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask. That’s what we’re here for.
- Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians. Jan-Feb 2012;62(1):30-67.
- Kushi LH, Byers T, Doyle C, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians. Sep-Oct 2006;56(5):254-281; quiz 313-254.
- Pitsavos C, Panagiotakos D, Weinem M, Stefanadis C. Diet, exercise and the metabolic syndrome. The review of diabetic studies : RDS. Fall 2006;3(3):118-126.