For the last few posts I have centered around the New Year's Resolution and post-holiday "self-improvement" phenomenon. As so many of us are trying to adapt to this healthier lifestyle in the New Year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is providing helpful tips on keeping cancer at bay with its newly updated set of recommendations.
The guidelines for preventing cancer, released last week, focus on:
- the importance of regular physical activity,
- healthy nutrition, and
- a tobacco-free life (the second leading cause of death in the United States).
While certain kinds of cancer can be hereditary, the sad truth is that many are often attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle. According to ACS, each year one-third of all cancer deaths in this country are caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, and another third is linked to tobacco use — both smoking and chewing.
So even though it's true that, in some cases of cancer, genetics may play a role, if we do our math from the above statistics, 66 percent of all cancers have bad habits to blame. It is well known that inactivity, a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet can contribute not only to many forms of cancer, but also to other preventable illnesses like heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
To lower cancer risk, the ACS recommends:
- not smoking,
- exercising regularly,
- maintaining a healthy weight,
- eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day, as well as whole grains instead of refined grain products, and
- limiting the consumption of red and processed meat, as well as alcohol.
How can a healthy diet and physical activity help keep cancer at bay?
In several ways. For example, exercise boosts the immune system so it is more resistant to various diseases. It may also alter levels of certain hormones that feed the growth and spread of tumors.
Another important reason is that physical activity along with a calorie-restricted diet prevents obesity, a major risk factor for many types of cancer. ACS reports that doctors are seeing more patients with cancers linked to obesity, including pancreatic, esophageal, liver and kidney cancers.
In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research estimated in 2009 that over 100,000 cases of cancer cases diagnosed in this country each year are caused by excess body fat.
This is another example of a huge impact our lifestyle choices can have on our health and longevity.
To maximize and maintain weight loss, I prescribe fat reducing workouts that combine interval training with strength-boosting exercises.
If you have read my posts in the past, you have heard me talk about interval training a few times. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is very effective, with the added bonus that it continues to burn fat and calories for up to 24 to 36 hours after the workout is finished. As for strength training, while it may not burn as many calories during the session (although it can when training at a high level), it does boost the overall calorie expenditure and builds muscle. And if you are someone who says, "I don't want to build muscle," think again. Muscle is a huge metabolism booster, not to mention all the other health benefits, such as stronger muscles and bones. Muscle doesn't have to mean muscle-bound.
What it all comes down to is that combining healthy diet with regular physical activity doesn't just help in transforming our body image, it transforms our lives completely. Get active and change your diet... you may very well reduce your lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer.
Anyone who wants to get started but isn't sure how to go about it can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website.