Scientists at the University of Texas found that sedentary living is associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer. This is the first study that definitely shows a strong relationship between the lack of movement and mortality from this ailment.
To measure the level of a sedentary lifestyle, 8,002 individuals who had not previously been diagnosed with cancer wore an accelerometer on their hip for 7 consecutive days between 2009 and 2013. After about five years, 268 of the participants died of cancer. The risk was 82% higher in people who moved less.
“This is the first study that definitively shows a strong association between not moving and cancer death,” said study lead author Susan Gilchrist, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In addition, the researchers found that doing any type of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as cycling, for at least 30 minutes can decrease your risk of dying from cancer by 31%. Meanwhile, the same risk was 8% lower in participants who performed low-intensity activity, such as walking.
“Conversations with my patients always begin with why they don’t have time to exercise. I tell them to consider standing up for 5 minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It might not sound like a lot, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits,” said Susan Gilchrist.
Still, this study has its limitations. These included the shortage of specific data on the type of tumour that the participants suffered and the treatment they received after being diagnosed with the disease. The next step for American scientists, Gilchrist notes, will be to investigate how objectively measured sedentary living influences the incidence of cancers in specific locations and whether gender and race play a role.