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Exercise and Health

family jogging togetherExercising is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and to lower your risk for many types of cancer, as well as other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. 

Exercise helps reduce your chances for cancer by helping you maintain a healthy weight and lose fat. Plus, it produces hormones that help reduce stress and lower your blood pressure.

To reap the health benefits, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of more vigorous physical activity each week. 

What counts as exercise?

You don't have to go to the gym every day or do sprints to get the recommended amount of physical activity each week. In fact, everyday activities can count as exercise, but only if you do them with at least a moderate intensity. You should be working enough to raise your heart rate and increase your breathing.man on bicycle

Try these strategies to work more physical activity into your day:

  • Get on or off the bus or train one stop early and walk briskly the rest of the way.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Park on the far end of the parking lot so you have to walk further to reach your destination.
  • Go dancing with your partner or friends.
  • Walk briskly around the mall two or three times before you begin shopping.
  • Mow your lawn.
  • Wash your car.

Plus, use this chart to determine if your activity is moderate or vigorous.  

Moderate ActivitiesVigorous Activities
  • Brisk walking (17-minute miles)
  • Dancing
  • Slow swimming
  • Golfing (without a cart)
  • Gardening
  • Fast walking (12-minute miles)
  • Running
  • Fast bicycling
  • Basketball
  • Swimming laps

What types of exercise are most beneficial?

weightsTo reap the rewards of exercise and lower your cancer risk, it's best to alternate everyday activities that increase your heart rate with cardio and strength training workouts. 

Cardiovascular activities like jogging and brisk walking get your heart pumping and your blood flowing. Strength training activities, like lifting weights, using resistances bands and doing exercises that use your body weight such as Pilates and yoga, can increase muscle strength, improve bone density and build lean body weight. Lean body weight increases your metabolism, so you burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight. 

You can do cardio workouts every day and strength train at least two days per week. Be sure to allow your muscles 48 hours to recover from a strength training workout. 

No matter what kind of exercise you do, be sure to stretch the muscles you're focusing on after your workout. Stretching can help reduce soreness and prevent injuries.

I haven't worked out in awhile. What can I do?

If you're new to exercise or haven't exercised in awhile, start slowly and work your way up to longer sessions. Try doing your exercise in 10-minute intervals throughout the day. Studies suggest this approach may be as good as continuous minutes of moderate intensity exercise.

It's normal to be sore at first, but the soreness shouldn’t last more than a day or so.

In addition, it's important to limit inactivity. Sedentary behavior, or sitting for extended periods, can increase your body fat. Too much total body fat can increase your risk for many cancers and heart disease. And limiting your sedentary behavior is a great start to increasing your physical activity. 

How can I get my kids to be more active?

kids runningBy encouraging your children to exercise every day, you can help them maintain a healthy weight and lead a healthy lifestyle that will help prevent diseases like cancer later in life.

As soon as your children can walk, they should be up and moving. Kids under six should enjoy natural, daily physical activity like running, jumping and skipping. And, kids ages six to 17 should exercise at an intensity high enough to raise their heart rate for at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week. 

Try these tips to encourage your kids to get moving:

  • Be a role model: If your kids see you being physically active and having fun, they're more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives.
  • Use exercise as transportation: Walk or bike with your kids to school, to visit friends or to the park.
  • Involve the whole family in activities: Invite everyone to go hiking, biking, roller skating, or to play basketball or soccer.
  • Focus on fun: Pack in lots of walking during trips to the zoo, park or miniature-golf course.
  • Use competition as a motivator: Make it a contest between you and the kids to see who can run faster, do more push-ups, sit-ups or jumping jacks and give the winner non-food-related prizes.
  • Include kids in household activities: Many household chores, like washing the dog or the car, or mowing the lawn, are great opportunities to sneak in a little physical activity.
  • Give gifts that promote physical activity: Rollerblades, bicycles, ice skates, soccer balls and even active-play video games make great gifts that promote physical activity.
  • Limit TV and computer time: Offer them active options, like joining a local recreation center or after-school program, or taking lessons in a sport they enjoy. When your family does watch TV together, get everyone moving during commercial breaks.

Am I overweight? Is my child overweight?

mom and child on scaleExercise can help prevent cancer regardless of how much you weigh. But a higher weight on the scale may indicate that you have more body fat than recommended. Evidence shows that people with a higher percentage of body fat are at greatest risk of cancer, as well as many other diseases. 

You can use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to determine whether you're at a healthy weight. Check your child’s BMI with the CDC's child and teen BMI calculator.

Source: National Heart, Blood & Lung Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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