August 1st, 2009

Exercise Reduces Risk of Cancer Death


Men who exercise at moderate to high intensity levels for at least 30 minutes per day are about 50% less likely to die prematurely from cancer, according to the results of a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.[1]

Research continues to indicate that lifestyle habits such as nutrition and exercise influence cancer risk and mortality. For years, public health officials have advocated 30 minutes of exercise a day; however, individual ideas of what constitutes exercise may vary.

Researchers in Finland recently evaluated how different intensity levels of exercise impact cancer mortality. The study included a population-based sample of 2,560 men from Eastern Finland with no history of cancer. Participants responded to the 12-Month Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire and were then followed for an average of 16.7 years. A total of 181 cancer related deaths occurred during the follow-up period.

Exercise intensity was measured in metabolic equivalents of oxygen consumption – or METs. Activities above an average of 4 MET are considered to be moderate-intensity. The average intensity of jogging is 10.1 MET compared to 5.1 MET for cycling and 4.2 MET for walking. Other activities fall short of the moderate-intensity level – for example, the average intensity level for fishing is 2.4 MET and hunting is 3.6 MET.

The results of the study indicated that as the intensity level of exercise increased, the risk of death from cancer decreased. This was especially pronounced for gastrointestinal and lung cancers. Men who exercised for at least 30 minutes a day at a moderate to high intensity level cut their risk of dying from cancer in half.


[1] Laukkanen JA, Rauramaa R, Makikallio TH, et al. Intensity of leisure-time physical activity and cancer mortality in men. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Published early online July 28, 2009. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.056713.

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