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Do 'Real' Exercise to Prevent Cancer

American Cancer Society: People Need to Go Beyond Normal Physical Activities of Daily Life
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 28, 2006 -- Taking the occasional flight of stairs or short walk from the parking garage to the office simply isn't enough to put a dent in your cancer risk.

Instead, new cancer prevention guidelines from the American Cancer Society say at least 30 minutes a day of dedicated exercise above and beyond the usual activities of daily life on five or more days a week is needed to really reduce your cancer risk.

That's a step up from previous guidelines that allowed people to count physical activity from normal activities of daily life toward their recommended 30 minutes a day of physical activity.

In addition, the new guidelines call on communities to take a more active role in encouraging healthy behaviors, by increasing access to healthful foods in schools and workplaces as well as providing safe and enjoyable sidewalks and recreational facilities.

"For years, we've told people what habits to adopt to lower their cancer risk, but it has become increasingly clear we need to create environments that make it easier to make healthy choices," says researcher Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, in a news release.

"Just as excise taxes and smoke-free laws have been critical to reducing tobacco's cancer toll," says Doyle, "community action is essential to create a social environment that promotes healthy food choices and physical activity."

4 Steps to Fight Cancer

Researchers say that for nonsmokers, weight control, physical activity, and dietary factors are the most important modifiable cancer risk factors.

One-third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. each year are attributable to diet and physical activity habits, such as being overweight or obese. That's about the same number of cancer deaths caused by tobacco.

Given the recent rise in obesity in the U.S., researchers say the new cancer prevention guidelines emphasize maintaining a healthy weight throughout life as the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.

The guidelines spell out the top four cancer prevention recommendations, along with strategies to achieve them, including:

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