Staying active throughout the day can help you feel better and reduce your risk for diseases like cancer. Exercise reduces your risk for cancer because:
- It helps you maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is linked to 13 different types of cancer.
- It helps regulate your hormones. Increased levels of some hormones can increase your cancer risk.
- It supports healthy digestion and may reduce the number of toxins in your body.
How to add physical activity to your day
Sit less. Get up and move for at least one to two minutes every hour that you are awake. Extended periods of sitting increase your cancer risk, even if you exercise regularly. Sitting too much also increases your risk for obesity, which leads to cancer and other chronic diseases.
Schedule exercise. Plan where, when and how you will exercise. And build up gradually.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes vigorous exercise each week. It’s best to do a combination of both, and you don’t have to do it all at one time. You can split up your activity into short intervals of as little as 10 minutes.
Make sure you include strength training
Build Strength. If your body is strong, everyday tasks are easier. And you are less likely to get injured. Strength training, also called resistance training, should be done twice a week.
Strength training also helps you maintain a healthy weight by building muscle, which boosts your metabolism.
Reward yourself. Keep yourself motivated by celebrating success. Small weekly rewards could include a new song download for workouts, a manicure or a trip to see a movie. You can also make exercise something to look forward to by adding in guilty pleasures like while you work out. Rewards will help you keep to your goals over time.
Cancer Prevention Center
When it comes to strength training, the idea of becoming bulky is off-putting for some people.
If you don’t want big muscles, a class or weight routine that claims to target muscle toning may seem appealing.
But exercise physiologist Whittney Thoman says muscle toning is a marketing ploy and you don’t need special classes.
“Exercise professionals hate the word toning because it’s not different from normal strength training,” says Thoman. “The term ‘toning’ became popular when trainers wanted to market their classes to females, because females have historically had a fear of strength training and getting bulky.”
Here are four things Thoman wants you to know about strength training and toning.
1. Toning is strength training with weight loss
When you lift weights or do resistance exercises like push-ups and lunges, your muscles get stronger and firmer. How you look comes down to how much lean muscle mass you have versus how much body fat you have.
“In order to increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat you
should strength train 2-3 times a week, incorporate at least 150
minutes of cardio exercise like fast walking or swimming, and eat a
healthy diet,” says Thoman. “Keep in mind that we do need some
fat on our bodies to be healthy, and women more so than men.”
2. You don’t need special toning classes
Strength training is all about the number of repetitions of each exercise you do. You may get a more toned look by using a light yet challenging weight and doing higher repetitions.
“When people use the word ‘toning,’ it generally means working on muscular endurance, not size,” says Thoman. “It's exercises that you can do for 12 to 20 reps, which doesn't cause a whole lot of muscle size gain.”
3. Women don’t need to train differently than men
Even lifting heavy weight likely won’t lead to muscle size gains for women. The bulky look that men often aim for requires the male hormone testosterone. Women don’t have enough testosterone to build large muscles easily.
“Women should pick the kind of strength training that they like and will do consistently. Then feel confident that they will look and feel better,” says Thoman. “Strength training is a key part of staying healthy and pain free as you get older.”
4. Strength training is important
Strength training is essential for your health because it makes daily tasks easier, boosts your metabolism and keeps your bones strong as you age.
“The most important reason to do strength training is not how it makes you look; it’s what it helps you do,” says Thoman. “Strength training makes it easier to get up out of a chair, to lift your groceries or to carry your children or grandchildren.”
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That’s because high intensity exercise can affect your internal body clock, known as your circadian rhythm.
“High-intensity exercise is anything that gets your heart rate up to a level where you’re only able to say a few words, but you can’t hold a conversation,” says Carol Harrison, a senior exercise physiologist at MD Anderson. “It’s sometimes called vigorous exercise, and it can include running, cycling, interval training and even strength training, if you’re really pushing yourself.”
These high-intensity exercises may change your circadian rhythm and delay the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
“Research has found that if you do vigorous exercise in the evening, it delays the production of melatonin the next night, making it harder to fall asleep,” says Harrison. “What’s surprising is that the change happens so quickly, after only one night of exercise.”
The shift likely happens because your body adapts to support the evening activity. The exercise tells your body clock that you don’t want to be sleepy at that time, and it changes for you.
Your body relies on cycles
Melatonin production is one of several cycles in your body controlled by the circadian rhythm.
“The circadian rhythm is really fascinating,” says Harrison. “It also influences other hormones, like insulin for digestion and cortisol, which is related to stress. It is a big reason why having a consistent schedule is so important.”
When everything is in sync, your hormones start to flow at the times your body needs them most. Cortisol levels rise in the morning to get you going, followed by insulin to deal with digesting your first meal.
“The most striking place we see it is with shift workers,” says Harrison. “There is evidence that people who work nights for many years are at higher risk for breast and prostate cancer, and the link may to be due to disruption of the circadian rhythm.”
Irregular schedules because of shift work, or because of lifestyle choices, are also linked to obesity, which can increase your risk for cancer.
Low-impact exercise in the evening is best
That’s a lot of information about your circadian rhythm, but the most important thing to remember is that your schedule can affect your health.
When you plan your exercise, save high intensity workouts for earlier in the day and stick to lower intensity ones at night.
Studies have found that our circadian rhythm is not affected by moderate exercise, where you’re able to talk, but not sing.
“If you start to push that body clock back, and you end up not getting enough sleep, then you may disrupt many of your other cycles,” says Harrison. “Be aware of when you eat and sleep, especially if you work shifts. Keeping things regular can help you stay healthy and lower your risk for disease.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
If slow and steady is more your style when you exercise, you might just win the fitness race.
Low impact, deliberate movement should be the foundation of any exercise routine, says our expert.
“Your body becomes stronger, has more endurance and will develop more muscle mass if you include low impact exercise,” says Corinna Medina, supervisor of MD Anderson Fitness Centers. “And you learn to control your heart rate and your breathing, which reduces stress.”
Medina says she learned this the hard way after years of focusing on high intensity exercise.
“I would always do high intensity training,” she says. “Then I realized I was getting sick a lot more because my body was always in a stressed state.”
Without low impact exercise, your body is more prone to injury and does not have time to recover from the demands of life.
Try these low impact exercises
Walking. The benefits of walking cannot be overstated. If you can add more steps to your day, it will help keep your body conditioned and help you maintain a healthy weight.
“It’s the one thing that’s left out of everybody’s day,” says Medina. “People that can hit 10,000 steps per day are often healthier than those that do 30 minutes of gym time daily.”
Swimming. Hit a rhythm in the pool and it can calm you down, increase your lung capacity and work almost every muscle in your body.
“The main thing about swimming is to get your breathing down,” says Medina. “Get into a groove and this can be one of the best low impact exercises.”
Tai Chi/Qi Gong. These mind-body practices are designed to get energy flowing smoothly around your body. Both involve slow and steady movements coordinated with your breath and are accessible to people of all fitness levels.
“These are great activities to learn how to adjust and adapt to different stressors in your life,” says Medina.
Like yoga, these mind-body practices can have long lasting effects on your mental and physical health.
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