Being physically fit helps protect against heart disease, but a person’s level of fitness might also have a weighty effect on cancer outcomes, long before a diagnosis.
There have been previous reports that higher levels of physical activity may reduce the risk of cancer.
This is one of the reasons physical activity is encouraged by the World Health Organization.
A new study in JAMA Oncology stated that men who were very fit in middle age were 32% less likely to die from cancer after being diagnosed at the age of 65 or above, than men who were not fit in midlife.
It is noteworthy that a fitness estimate of the fitness level of 10-15 years before your actual cancer diagnosis, can be used to predict how long you are likely going to live after you develop cancer.
In the study, researchers studied fitness data, measured by a treadmill test, and cancer data (specifically prostate, lung and colorectal cancer), from about 14,000 men for 6.5 years.
It was noticed that men who were very fit at age 50 had a 55% lower risk of lung cancer and a 44% reduced risk of colorectal cancer compared to men who were not fit at the age of 50.
The shielding benefits of exercise continued, even as of the men who eventually were diagnosed with lung, prostate and colorectal cancer by 65 years old or older, being very fit in midlife was associated with a 32% reduced risk of cancer-related death and a 68% lower risk of cardiovascular death, when compared to men who had low fitness in midlife.
The finest part is that it doesn’t take a lot of exercises to make a big health impact, even as the researchers discovered that Just a small improvement in fitness made a difference in survival of those that developed cancer.
In comparison to men who could run 12-minute miles on the treadmill at age 50, men who did run slightly faster at 11.5-minute miles had an additional 10% decrease in cancer death and a 25% decrease in cardiovascular death, among those who developed cancer.
Remarkably, the effects of being fit, in this study statistically were greater in terms of deferring illness than in lengthening life.
Perhaps the most important benefit of staying fit, was the fact that while those in the fittest group did tend to live longer than the least fit, that they were even more likely to live well during more of their older years.
Aging is a complicated process and extremely individualized, with the onset or absence of illness representing only one, but a big element in the quality of life after age 65 or so.
While aerobic fitness is partly determined by genetics, much of a person’s fitness, especially by middle age, depends on physical activities.
So, exercising during midlife, especially if you have not been doing so, can pay enormous benefits later in life.
The study suggests that someone in midlife who moves from the least fit to the second-to-the-least-fit category of fitness gets an extra benefit, in terms of staving off chronic diseases than someone who moves to the highest fitness group from the second-highest.
And moving out of that least fit category requires, only a small dose of exercise, like 20 to 30 minutes of walking on most days of the week.
On a final note, exercising and staying fit is also important for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, as a number of epidemiologic studies did suggest that those individuals who are more physically active, are less likely to have their cancer come back.
So they have better cancer effects than those who are inactive. Also, individuals with better cardiorespiratory fitness might be better able to tolerate chemotherapy procedures as well.