Exercise is more than a way to look fit in a summer swimsuit. It’s more than a means to burn calories, lose weight, help prevent diabetes and help minimize the development of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), repeated studies demonstrate sobering evidence that exercise helps protect against various types of cancers. The AICR reports “Convincing Evidence” that physical activity protects against the development of colon cancer; “Probable Evidence” that exercise helps prevent postmenopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer; and “Suggestive Evidence” that physical activity protects the participant against the development of lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.
How Much Exercise is Necessary for this Protection?
As one of the three simplified guidelines for preventing cancer, individuals are encouraged to “be physically active every day in any way for 30 minutes or more.” While half an hour of exercise every day seems to be an easy goal, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that less than half of adults engaged in over 21 minutes of physical activity per day in a 2008 study. Since that time, researchers have increased the amount and intensity of suggested activity. Individuals are strongly encouraged to participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, increasing the intensity of the activity to “vigorous” two days out of seven. There are lists of “moderate” versus “vigorous” exercises or you can measure your heart rate to differentiate between the two. The easiest way to differentiate between the two, however, is to remember that with moderate exercise allows to you to carry on a conversation while vigorous exercise can make talking to another person somewhat difficult. In addition to these two steps, a third one is strongly recommended: a decrease in the amount of time spent watching television. This activity in particular is related to unhealthy habits such as a sedentary lifestyle, eating without hunger and eating processed foods.
How Do I Increase My Physical Activity?
If joining a fitness center is beyond your means, there are still many ways to get your required daily exercise. However, anyone with insurance — including Medicare-supplemental plans — should check with their insurance company. Many insurance plans include free or deeply discounted gym memberships in an effort to keep their insured customers healthy. Many options will depend upon your age, health, financial situation and where you live but keep looking until you find something that works.
- Take the batteries out of the TV remote and stick it in a drawer. If you are going to watch television, change channels the old-fashioned way: get up out of your chair and walk to the television set. You’d be surprised at how much better for your body this simple action can cause.
- If you’re still stuck on your television programs, at least keep your body moving while you’re watching your programs. If treadmills are too expensive, find a stationary bike to pedal while you watch. Stationary bikes are a familiar sight at thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales, so keep looking if you’re on a budget.
- A third option for watching TV while still trying to maintain some movement is to sit on a fitness ball if you are already somewhat familiar with the requirements. Maintain long-term balance on the ball helps continuously strength your core muscle groups that make up your torso.
- Contact your city, county or township community center for information on community classes for water aerobics, tai chi, yoga, karate, dumbbell weights and even rumba dancing. The camaraderie and encouragement you gain from your classmates can keep you learning and returning for every glass.
- Call a local shopping mall’s management office to determine if they allow seniors to walk in the mornings before the stores open. Try and keep a regular schedule among your other activities.
- Pack you lunch for work and you’ll have 20 to 40 minutes, depending upon how long your lunch break is, to walk around the block or to a nearby park.
- Whenever possible, take the stairs and avoid escalators and elevators.
- If you can afford it, enroll in a dance school with your partner or a friend. Many underestimate the stamina required to perform ballroom dancing yet enjoy learning a skill that they’ve usually avoided.
- Purchase two or three umbrellas, a couple of rain hats and a rain coat and boots. These items are easily available at thrift stores. Don’t let a rainy day ruin a planned walk outside. You haven’t melted yet!
The more active you become, the more you usually enjoy the activity and the more you want to do it. But you have to get out of that chair first!
About the Author: Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, an integrative medicine and wellness practice, offers an array of alternative cancer treatments for patients dealing with, breast, lung, prostate and other types of cancer.