Get moving in ’07

How many times have you made that New Year’s resolution to get in shape? A lot of us put exercise on our list at this time of year, but it’s typically one of the first things to fall by the wayside. If you’re looking for some extra motivation to keep you on track, here are five good reasons to get active and stay active in 2007.

Keep your weight down:

The evidence linking excess weight to cancer has gotten stronger. Being overweight or obese is known to raise your risk of cancers of the colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus, kidney, and breast (among women past menopause). It is also thought to be linked to several other types of cancer including ovarian, pancreatic, cervical, and prostate.

Watching what you eat is key to keeping your weight at a healthy level, of course. But exercise is equally important. The most recent American Cancer Society recommendations call for adults to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity — over and above usual activities like housework or taking the stairs instead of the elevator — on five or more days a week. Moderate activities include walking, slow biking, gardening, golfing, or yoga. Vigorous activities include jogging or running, fast cycling, soccer, swimming, or jumping rope.

Reduce colon cancer risk:

A recent study from Europe found that people who exercised had a lower risk of developing colon cancer than people who didn’t get much exercise. Researchers followed more than 413,000 men and women between the ages of 35 and 70 for more than six years. Those who got the most physical activity had a 22 per cent lower risk of colon cancer (especially on the right side of the colon) than people who got the least. The benefit of exercise on colon cancer risk was also seen in the overweight participants, a known at-risk group.

People needed to get about one hour of vigorous physical activity, or two hours of moderate activity, every day to reduce their risk of colon cancer. But it didn’t matter whether they got that exercise at home, on the job, or for fun.

Prevent breast cancer:

Numerous studies have linked exercise with a lower risk of breast cancer. Recent research from the Iowa Women’s Health Study adds to that evidence. With 18 years of follow-up, the researchers found that women with high physical activity levels had lower BMIs and a 14 per cent lower risk of breast cancer after menopause. Exercise especially reduced the risk of one very aggressive type of tumour described as ER+/PR — (it has estrogen receptors but not progesterone receptors). In this study, a high activity level was defined as getting vigorous exercise two or more times per week, or moderate exercise more than four times per week.

Improve quality of life:

Lifting weights can help breast cancer survivors get stronger and feel better, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania. They divided 86 survivors into two groups; one group weight trained twice a week for six months, while the other did not change their daily activities.

By the end of the study, women in the weight training group reported significant improvements in physical function, as well as in communication, relationship, and psychological issues. The women told the researchers they felt stronger and more confident, with more energy and fewer aches and pains than before.

Benefits beyond cancer:

Cancer isn’t the only disease that can be affected by exercise. Regular activity can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, too. Exercise can give you more energy, help you deal with stress, improve your sleep quality, and make you feel better about yourself.

If you’re just starting an exercise programme, be sure to talk with your doctor first. Discuss how hard you should work out and how often, especially if you have health problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you’re a smoker.

Find an activity you enjoy and get moving.