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Exercise: Build a cancer - fighting body

Focused on Health - September 2012

How to build a cancer - fighting bodyby Laura Nathan-Garner

Want a cancer-fighting body? Try to get 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity each day.

Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight, and keeps your hormones at normal levels and your digestive system working well.

Regular physical activity also can strengthen your immune system, reduce stress and curb your risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Here’s how you can reap all the benefits of exercise.

Work exercise into everyday activities

Haven’t worked out in a while? Or new to exercise? Good news: getting your daily exercise doesn’t require going to the gym. 

How to build a cancer - fighting bodyWork more physical activity into your day with these strategies:

  • Have walking meetings at work.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • At work, use the bathroom on a different floor. And take the stairs to get there and back.
  • Park at the far end of the parking lot so you have to walk further.
  • Go dancing.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Get off the bus or train one stop early and walk briskly the rest of the way.
  • Wash your car or dog.
  • Vacuum or mop.
  • Work in the garden.

For these activities to count as moderate exercise, your heart should beat a little faster, and you should be breathing a little more deeply.

“You should be able to talk while exercising but not sing,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor of behavioral science at MD Anderson.

Include strength training and stretching

How to build a cancer - fighting bodyActivities that get your heart pumping are an everyday must.

But it’s also important to do strength training like weight lifting two to three times each week. Strength training can prevent muscle loss, build bone density and help your body burn more calories to keep you at a healthy weight.

“Be sure to work the core muscle groups each week,” Basen-Engquist says.

And, always stretch the muscles you are exercising. Stretching your legs, arms and back will make physical activity easier and more enjoyable. It’ll also prevent muscle tears and injuries. Get started with these stretches.

Break exercise into short intervals

You don’t have to get your 30 minutes of exercise all at once.

“You can break your daily workout into three 10-minute or two 15-minute chunks as your schedule allows,” Basen-Engquist says.

Can’t get your full 30 minutes for the day? Even 15 minutes of daily exercise can increase your life expectancy by up to three years, says recent research.

Gradually work up to more than 30 minutes

Getting 30 minutes of daily physical activity is great. But you’ll reap even more health benefits if you exercise for 60 minutes a day.

In fact, 60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity — or at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity — is necessary to avoid weight gain, says the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Vigorous activity means you should be sweating and out of breath.

So, what are you waiting for? Get moving!

Related Links:

Exercise: Get It Done in Minutes (MD Anderson)
Exercise and Health (MD Anderson)
Stretch Toward Better Health (MD Anderson)
Types of Physical Activity (AICR)

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center