New research suggests better cardio fitness is linked to lower risk of dying from common cancers.
Men with a higher fitness level, measured by VO2 max, were less likely to die of lung, prostate, or colon cancers.
Activities like walking, running, and cycling can boost cardio fitness in a few minutes each day.
Getting enough cardio exercise may help men stave off some of the most common types of deadly cancer, new research suggests.
A higher measure of cardio fitness is linked to lower risk of dying from lung cancer, prostate cancer, or colon cancer, according to a study published June 29 in JAMA Network Open.
Researchers from the The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences looked at data from 177,709 Swedish men ranging from 18 to 75 years old, over nearly 10 years of follow up.
They wanted to compare their cardio-respiratory fitness to their risk of developing, or dying from, cancers of the lungs, colon, and prostate, three of the most common cancers in men.
To test participants' cardio fitness, they measured VO2 max, the ability to use oxygen during exercise, by having the men pedal on a stationary bicycle for six minutes, aiming for a steady heart rate, which was then used to calculate V02 max.
The participants were then ranked into four groups from lowest to highest cardio-respiratory fitness.
Men who had the highest levels of fitness had significantly lower risk of dying from lung, colon, or prostate cancer, the data showed.
Study participants with a higher VO2 max also had a lower risk of developing lung or colon cancer in the first place, although data showed they had a slighter higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
After adjusting for other lifestyle factors like diet, other health conditions, and smoking habits, the study results still suggested that participants with at least moderate cardio fitness had significantly lower risk of colon and prostate cancer death compared to their peers with the lowest fitness scores.
The results suggest that cardiovascular health is crucial not only for preventing heart diseases, but also staving off some cancers, the researchers wrote.
You can improve VO2 max with even small dose of regular cardio
More physical activity, especially at higher intensity, could be beneficial in helping prevent deadly illnesses like some cancers as well as heart disease, the researchers concluded in the paper.
Cardio exercises include walking, running, swimming, cycling and other activities that raise your heart rate and cause you to breathe harder. Doing so can help improve your cardio-respiratory health over time, reducing the risk of illnesses as well as boosting mood.
Public health authorities like the US Department of Health and Human Services typically recommend a combined total per week of 150 minutes of moderate activity like brisk walking or yard work or 75 minutes of intense activity like running, fitness classes, or carrying heavy groceries.
Research suggests that every little bit counts, and low-intensity habits like walking can add up to big health benefits. A recent study found adding a short walk to your daily routine can be enough to a reduce the risk of dying early from ailments like heart disease and cancer.
And high-energy workouts could pay off in even less time. A 2021 study found that less than 15 minutes of exercise a day could improve cardio fitness, with short, frequent bursts of high-intensity effort on a stationary bike.
Other exercises for boosting cardio include rowing and even weightlifting, if you keep your heart rate high.
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