Health Library

Health Library

Exercise for Cancer Prevention

Changing your diet to decrease your risk of developing cancer is a good idea but starting an exercise program might also be helpful. Exercise is an important part of any weight loss program.

Being overweight and inactive could be hazardous to your health. Some studies on obesity are showing that being overweight may place you at risk of developing cancers, including cancers of the prostate, cervix, kidney, breast, endometrium, liver, rectum, ovary, esophagus, colon, prostate, and gallbladder. The exact mechanism behind this increased risk of cancer for overweight people is unknown.

Whether you are a beginner to exercise or a seasoned athlete, you need to be aware of basic exercise guidelines. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following for healthy adults under age 65:

  • Exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day, five times a week, or at vigorous intensity three days a week.

  • Warm up for five to 10 minutes before aerobic activity.

  • To lose weight or maintain weight loss, more activity may be necessary.

  • Do strength-training exercises twice a week.

  • Gradually decrease the intensity of your workout, then stretch to cool down during the last five to 10 minutes.

How to determine your target heart rate zone

To benefit from exercise, it is important to maintain a level of intensity. A method of monitoring physical activity intensity is to determine if your heart rate or pulse is within your target heart rate zone during physical activity.

Your target heart rate zone should be 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To determine your target heart rate zone, follow these steps:

  1. An estimate of a person's maximum age-related heart rate can be calculated by subtracting the person's age from 220. For example, for a 55-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220-55 years=165 beats per minute (bpm).

  2. Next, multiply the maximum age-related heart rate by 0.50 to determine the 50 percent level. For example: 165 beats per minute x 0.50=83 beats per minute (bpm).

  3. Finally, multiply the maximum age-related heart rate by 0.85 to determine the 85 percent level. For example: 165 beats per minute x 0.85=140 beats per minute (bpm).

Thus, moderate-intensity physical activity for a 55-year-old person will require that the heart rate remain between 83 and 140 beats per minute during physical activity.

During exercise, you should stop exercising briefly and check your pulse from time to time to determine if you are exercising within your target heart rate zone. To check your pulse, using the first and second fingertips, press lightly over the carotid artery located on your neck, just to the left or right of the Adam’s apple. Or check your radial pulse by pressing on the artery insert your wrist, just below the base of your thumb.

Count your pulse (heartbeats) for a full 60 seconds, or 30 seconds and multiply by two, or 10 seconds and multiply by the number six.

The target heart rate zone is a guideline. Always consult your doctor if you have questions about your heart rate, or starting an exercise program.

Examples of aerobic exercise

Examples of aerobic exercise include the following:

  • Walking

  • Jogging

  • Swimming

  • Bicycling

  • Rollerblading

Try to add strength training or lifting weights a couple of times a week. This improves strength and muscle tone along with raising your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories at rest.

Besides trying to find time for structured exercise, you should also attempt to incorporate more activity into your daily routine. Examples of everyday activities that also burn calories include the following:

  • Vacuuming

  • Mowing the lawn with a push mower

  • Washing your car by hand

  • Gardening

  • Scrubbing your floors and bathtub

  • Golfing

If possible, walk or bike to work or the grocery store. Park your car far away from the front door of work or shopping mall.

By incorporating more physical activities and routine exercise into your life, you will not only feel better but possibly decrease your risk of developing cancer as well.

Exercise for Cancer Prevention - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS, OCN
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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