Physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, and overweight or obesity can raise our risk of cancer. Doctors on how to stay active and modify lifestyle.
Sedentary lifestyle is on rise due to increasing use of technology, decreasing physical activity and people moving or walking a lot less in general. This inactive lifestyle has far serious implications than it appears on surface and several studies suggest how it is linked to many kinds of cancer. Experts say that sitting, reclining, lying down for hours at stretch is a new carcinogen and can increase risk of cancer. The cases of obesity-related cancer are on rise in the past decades and to avoid this risk factor, making lifestyle changes that make you active can go a long way. (Also read: 5 exercises to improve heart health if you are leading a sedentary lifestyle)
“World over incidence of cancer is increasing at an alarming rate. We all need to identify where in our lifestyles we are going wrong and correct it to prevent cancers in our present and future generations. An estimated 30-40% of cancers can be prevented through changes in modifiable lifestyle and environmental risk factors. We know since several years that consumption of tobacco either by chewing or smoking, alcohol and some viral infections are known risk factors for cancer. Recent studies have shown that physical inactivity, sedentary lifestyle and obesity are also emerging high risk lifestyle factors for cancers,” says Dr. Vineeta Goel – Director and HOD – Radiation Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh.
Strong evidence exists that higher level of physical activity reduce the risk of different cancers like breast, colon (intestine), uterus, ovary, prostate, esophagus (food pipe), stomach and bladder.
“In the past 30–40 years, three main modifiable factors have emerged that are associated with an increased risk of cancer: physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, and overweight or obesity. The incidence of obesity-related cancers is critically affected by dietary composition, physical activity, and sedentary practices. A key and effective measure in the prevention of cancer is to reduce the exposure to modifiable causes of cancer, such as physical inactivity,” says Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, Surgical Oncologist, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka.
What is sedentary lifestyle
Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity has been linked with many cancers as per many studies.
“Sedentary behaviour means sitting, reclining, or lying down for extended periods of time. There is strong evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risk of several types of cancer like breast cancer, uterine cancer, colon cancer, food pipe cancer, stomach cancer, bladder and kidney cancer. There is some evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer,” says Dr Kumar.
How exercise and physical activity can prevent us from cancer
Dr Vineeta Goel says physical Exercise and maintaining optimum body mass index (BMI)/ weight can reduce risk of cancer in general population and prevent cancer re-occurrence in cancer survivors.
“Exercise has many positive biological effects on the body, some of which have been proposed to explain associations with specific cancers. These include lowering the levels of certain hormones (estrogen, growth factors, insulin ), reducing inflammation, improving immune system function, reducing transit time for food to travel through intestine and helping to keep a check on weight preventing obesity which has a direct link in development of many cancers,” says Dr Kumar.
“WHO recommends that adults should do either moderate intensity exercises for 150-300 minutes per week or vigorous/high intensity exercises for 75-150 minutes/week,” says Dr Goel.