Regular physical activity that raises the heart rate and makes a person ‘huff and puff’ can significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer even for those with a healthy weight, a study has shown.
A study of more than 200,000 adults conducted by Cancer Council NSW found that as little as 10 minutes of vigorous physical activity lowered someone’s risk of developing colon cancer by 22 per cent.
Importantly, two of the biggest risk factors for colon cancer – physical inactivity and obesity – were found to be independent of each other, said lead researcher Visalini Nair-Shalliker.
This means anybody can get the benefits from physical activity regardless of their body weight, said Dr Nair-Shalliker.
“These findings show that everybody should get moving and highlight the need to encourage physical activity and a healthy body weight separately,” she said.
Colorectal cancer (CRC), defined as cancer of the colon or rectum, is one of the most common cancers in Australia, with almost 17,000 new cases each year.
For the study, researchers analysed data from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up study.
Among the cohort there were 846 cases of colon cancer and 369 cases of rectal cancer diagnosed in the study period.
Participants who engaged in any amount of vigorous activity every week had a 22 per cent lower risk of developing colon cancer compared to participants who did not perform any vigorous activity, said Dr Nair-Shalliker.
“We also found that being overweight or obese increased the risk of developing colon cancer by 32 per cent,” she said.
The Cancer Council recommends aiming for 60 minutes of moderate or 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day.