Exercise and Colon Cancer Prevention

There’s no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer. But there are things you can do that might help lower your risk, such as changing the risk factors that you can control.

Increasing your level of activity lowers your risk of colorectal cancer and polyps. Regular moderate activity (doing things that make you breathe as hard as you would during a brisk walk) lowers the risk, but vigorous activity might have an even greater benefit. Increasing the intensity and amount of your physical activity may help reduce your risk.

In a National Cancer Institute study involving more than 1.4 million participants, researchers found that people with the highest levels of physical activity had lower rates of colon cancer compared with those who had the lowest levels of physical activity.

According to researchers, exercise may help lower rates of colon cancer in some people by:

  • Improving immune function
  • Reducing insulin resistance
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing the time for food to move through the colon, therefore reducing exposure
  • to carcinogens
  • Lowering levels of certain hormones, including insulin and estrogen that may contribute to the development and growth of cancer
  • Decreasing growth factors associated with the development and growth of cancer

To get substantial health benefits from exercise, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) guidelines recommend that adults engage in aerobic exercise for periods of 10 minutes or more for a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity spread throughout each week.

DHHS guidelines suggest that children and teens engage in moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 60 minutes 3 or more days a week and include muscle- and bone-strengthening physical activity in their 60 minutes or more of exercise at least 3 days a week.

Maybe you exercise regularly but want to modify your current exercise program to include some different activities. Rather than the typical exercises like running, walking, swimming and biking, vary your workouts by trying one of these exercises:

  • Water aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts
  • Dancing- ballroom dancing, line dancing, folk dancing, square dancing
  • Tennis
  • Basketball league through a fitness facility or recreation center
  • Canoeing
  • Hiking
  • Skiing