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Increasing physical activity by 30 minutes a day reduces cancer death risk, study says

Even light exercise can help older adults with cancer live longer, a new study has found. Photo by qimono/Pixabay
Even light exercise can help older adults with cancer live longer, a new study has found. Photo by qimono/Pixabay

June 18 (UPI) -- Light exercise can help older adults with cancer live longer, according to a study published Thursday by JAMA Oncology.

Replacing 30 minutes of "sedentary time," such as sitting on the couch watching TV, with daily light-intensity physical activity reduces an older adult's risk of death from cancer by 8 percent, study co-author Dr. Susan C. Gilchrist said.

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Researchers say taking a walk is good enough, but doing an extra 30 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day, like taking a bike ride or going for a swim, lowers the likelihood of death from cancer by 31 percent.

"The study results bring a practical message to the public and one that most individuals can achieve to reduce risk of cancer death -- replacing no movement with light physical activity," Gilchrist, an associate professor of clinical cancer prevention at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, told UPI.

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The findings are based on an analysis of more than 8,000 adults age 45 and older enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study. Participants couldn't be receiving treatment for cancer at the start of the study, and they were followed for a period of roughly five years, according to Gilchrist and her colleagues.

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Participants wore a hip-mounted accelerometer for a seven-day period. The device was used to measure physical activity levels.

In all, 268, or 3.3 percent, of the participants died from cancer during the study period, the researchers said. On average, those who died from cancer had more than 777 minutes of sedentary time daily, compared to 741 minutes per day among those who were still alive at the end of the study period, they found.

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Survivors had, on average, 189 minutes of light-intensity physical activity per day and 13 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, the researchers said.

Those who died from cancer engaged in an average of 155 minutes of light-intensity physical activity per day and eight minutes of of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, they said.

Participants with more sedentary time during the day were 45 percent more likely to die from cancer during the five-year study period, the researchers said.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly to help prevent cancer and other health problems.

"Older adults tend to spend more time being sedentary and are generally at higher risk for cancer death," Gilchrist said. "Any activity that prompts physical movement -- standing, going to the mailbox, washing dishes, even while sitting -- would potentially be helpful."

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