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For a long time we thought that our genes determine how long we will live (longevity). A new study says not so fast - how we live is more important than our genes. Specifically, how much physical activity and sedentary time (time spent sitting) both have an effect on whether we die early or later, no matter our genetic make-up.

Researchers found that among older women - having higher weekly amounts of light, moderate, or vigorous physical activity was associated with a lower risk of early death. Having higher amounts of sedentary (sitting) time was associated with a higher risk of early death. It didn't matter if there was a genetic predisposition for longevity or not - the findings applied to everyone.

Bottom line: Get off the sofa or out of your chair and move, move, move. All types of physical activity are good for longevity and to lower risk of disease. While this study looked at older women, the findings are also thought to apply to older men.

From Science Daily: Physical activity may have a stronger role than genes in longevity

Previous research has shown that low physical activity and greater time spent sitting are associated with a higher risk of death. Does risk change if a person is genetically predisposed to live a long life? ...continue reading "Physical Activity May Be More Important Than Genes In Longevity"

More and more research over the past decade has stressed the importance of exercise for our health, but it turns out it is also important in slowing down tumor development. Yes - it actually reduces the growth of cancer.

During a presentation at a 2022 medical conference in Spain, researcher Adrián Castillo García stated that a prescription for exercise (physical activity) should be part of cancer treatment.

Physical exercise also works to make cancer treatments more effective. For example, physical exercise (physical activity), in combination with chemotherapy, reduces the progression of cancer and on tumor volume (doesn't grow as much). Garcia thought that resistance exercise, such as cycling, was especially effective.

Other studies also find that exercise slows down tumor growth (e.g., colon cancer growth in persons with colorectal cancer is reduced by high intensity interval training), and lowers the risk of developing bowel cancer.

Bottom line: View exercise as anti-cancer.

From Medscape: Nutrients and Exercise Affect Tumor Development

Researchers discussed an update on the latest evidence regarding the cancer-lifestyle link as part of the Precision Health session: Oncology, held during the 7th International Congress of the Spanish Society of Precision Health (SESAP). The role that certain nutrients can have on tumor development was analyzed, along with the most recent data justifying the idea that the prescription of physical exercise should not be optional, but rather integrated into oncological treatment.

Exercise as Oncological Therapy

In the same session, Adrián Castillo García, graduate in physical activity and sports sciences and a researcher at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Institute (IIBB) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), reviewed the latest studies that showed evidence of the importance of physical exercise during cancer treatment and its potential role in modulating the tumor microenvironment and immune function. 

...continue reading "Exercise Slows Down Tumor Development"

The studies are coming fast and furious about how all daily physical activity has health benefits. Ordinary daily activities that cause a person to move, such as housework, vacuuming, washing dishes, gardening, walking, cooking, even showering - all count. (On the other hand, reading and computer use do not.)

A recent study by University of California researchers found a higher rate of heart disease, stroke, and death in older women who have less than 2 hours each day of "daily life movement" (daily physical activities) compared to those who have more than 4 hours per day. At the start of the study 5416 women (63 years or older, and without heart disease) wore an accelerometer to measure their daily movements for 1 week, and then their health was followed for more than 6 years.

The researchers found that higher amounts of daily life movement or "being up and about" were associated with a lower risk of major cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular death in older women. In other words - all movement (and not just exercise) counts towards cardiovascular disease prevention.

From Science Daily: Daily activities like washing dishes reduced heart disease risk in senior women

Seniors take note, running or brisk walking is not the only way to reduce the risk of heart disease. Simply being "up and about" performing routine activities, referred to as daily life movement, including housework, gardening, cooking and self-care activities like showering can significantly benefit cardiovascular health. ...continue reading "Ordinary Daily Activities Can Have Health Benefits"

Many people think that only exercises done in a gym, in exercise classes, or with exercise equipment can improve health. But no! Any physical activity is good, which means ordinary walks and household tasks or housework are beneficial. And the more frequently you do them, the more beneficial.

Studies show that physical activity from housework tasks (e.g., vacuuming) are associated with improved cognition, increased brain volume, and executive functioning of the brain in older adults, and with less frailty. Higher levels of physical activity are linked to a reduction in early death and heart diseases. Heavy household tasks (e.g. vacuuming, window cleaning, scrubbing, painting) have more benefits than light household tasks (e.g., dusting, ironing, doing laundry, washing dishes, cooking).

I know, I know - no one wants to get up and do such household tasks as vacuuming, but think of it as exercise class replacement.

A commentary (and video) by Dr. Stephan Martin discussing studies showing housework improving health and fitness. From Medscape: Housework Can Increase Brain Volume and Physical Fitness

Physical activity is a panacea: it protects against cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Very active people are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, and the prevalence of dementia is apparently lower for them.  ...continue reading "Physical Activity of Housework Has Health Benefits"

The CDC (Centers for Disease ) recently released another bit of gloomy news about Americans - that 25% of adults report being physically inactive. Being physically inactive means that they don't do any physical activities outside of work. This means no walking for exercise, no gardening, no bicycling, nothing.

There were differences according to where a person lives - from a low of physical inactivity of 17.7% of people in Colorado to a high of 49.4% in Puerto Rico. There were regional variations with the South reporting 27.5% of adults being physically inactive and with the West the least (21.0%).

There were also differences in physical inactivity levels by race and ethnicity. Overall, Hispanic adults (32.1%) reported the most physical inactivity outside of work, and non-Hispanic Asian adults the least (20.1%). The results were from large-scale health-related telephone surveys (called Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System or BRFSS), with more than 400,000 adults interviewed each year.

Why the concern with physical activity? Numerous studies find that physical activity results in better health, for example in lower risk of diabetes, better brain health, and lower risk of heart disease. Some researchers call exercise or physical activity a "magical bullet" in warding off heart disease.

Dr. Ruth Peterson, Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, stated that:

“Getting enough physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths. Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease)."

How much physical activity is best? CDC guidelines state that adults should have at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes of moderate intensity workouts each week. This includes brisk walking! All physical activity counts, for example, bicycling, gardening, fast dancing, exercise classes.

Jan. 20, 2022 CDC news release: CDC Releases Updated Maps of America’s High Levels of Inactivity

There is another great reason to try to lose weight if you are overweight or obese - being overweight or obese lowers blood flow to the brain in older adults. Yikes! However, one bit of good news from a study of 495 adults (average age 69) was that increased physical activity (brisk walks count!) can reduce or eliminate this association.

This could help explain why obesity increases the risk for a number of conditions as a person gets older, such as heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

The study was part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. The average BMI (body mass index) was 28, which is considered overweight. One finding was that each 1 cm increase in waist circumference was associated with the same reduction of brain (cerebral) blood flow as 1 year of advancing age. (Yes, brain volume and blood flow typically diminish with age in older adults. So you want to prevent it as much as possible.)

The study found that higher levels of physical activity can reduce or remove this association of overweight & obesity and reduced brain blood flow. So if it's not possible to lose weight - then get really physically active!

How much exercise is beneficial? The researchers recommend at least 1.5 to 2 hours per day of "being active", that is, doing activities that require "moderate" effort - this means breathing somewhat harder than normal (e.g. brisk walking, cycling at a regular pace, carrying light loads). Equally beneficial is to get some "vigorous activity" which results in breathing much higher than normal (e.g., digging, aerobics, fast cycling, carrying heavy loads). But any and all movement is good!

Medical Xpress: Researchers find obesity linked to reduced blood flow to the brain

A new study from scientists at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin reveals important findings, indicating that being overweight or obese significantly reduces blood flow in the brain. The study also shows that increased physical activity can positively modify, or even negate, this reduction in brain blood flow. ...continue reading "Overweight and Obesity Is Associated With Reduced Blood Flow In the Brain"

Another reason to get more active - a new study finds that being physically inactive (a couch potato) is associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and ICU admission for COVID-19, and death from COVID-19. The researchers concluded that being consistently inactive should be viewed as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes, and that it is a "stronger risk factor than any of the underlying medical conditions and risk factors identified by the CDC except for age and a history of organ transplant". Yikes!

On the other hand, being physically active at least 150 minutes per week, and this includes brisk walking, is linked to lower rates of all of the above. Some activity (but under 150 minutes per week) is also better than none, but 150 minutes or more is better. The researchers state that besides vaccinations, social distancing, and mask wearing - being physically active is the single most important action individuals can take to prevent severe COVID-19 and its complications, including death.

The 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of physical activity per week are the recommended US Physical Activity Guidelines for adults, and include moderate and vigorous physical activity. It includes brisk walking. This can be achieved in less than 1/2 hour per day!

The researchers point out that health benefits of regular physical activity include: improved immune function, lower incidence of viral infections, as well as lower intensity and cases of death from viral infections, lowers the risk of chronic inflammation, improves cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity, muscle strength, and improves mental health. Which is why it is not surprising that persons getting a good amount of physical activity each week also generally have fewer problems with COVID-19 infections.

From CNN: Reduce risk of severe Covid with regular activity, study says. Here's how to get in 22 minutes of exercise daily

Some excerpts from the study at British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM): Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48,440 adult patients

Abstract: Objectives To compare hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and mortality for patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive, doing some activity or consistently meeting physical activity guidelines.  ...continue reading "Reduce Your Risk of Severe COVID-19 Infection By Being Physically Active"

More evidence that there are health benefits from physical activity, even minimal amounts. Ohio State University researchers found that physical activity, even 10 minute at a time physical activity or exercise, adds up and is associated with lower amounts of cardiovascular (heart) disease in the next ten years - even for obese and overweight persons.

Being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. About 40% of Americans are obese and 32% are overweight, so having a way to simply and cheaply lower rates of cardiovascular disease is wonderful. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9, obesity is BMI 30 or higher, and normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.8 (see CDC guidelines)

The researchers found that physical activity is more important than weight of a person in determining the risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years. Unfortunately 43% of the overweight participants and 53% of the obese participants reported being sedentary (did not engage in at least 10 minutes of continuous physical activity each week) - and these groups had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.

What counts as exercise or physical activity? Physical activity should be at least 10 continuous minutes or more, and ideally add up to 150 minutes or more each week. All moderate (e.g. brisk walking, light yard work, vacuuming, dancing) and vigorous (e.g. jogging, swimming laps, aerobics, heavy yard work) recreation activities count. The study found that engaging in less than 150 minutes a week also lowered the risk for cardiovascular disease, just not as much as for those with 150 minutes or more each week.

Government guidelines: The Physical Activity Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

Bottom line: Try to move, move, move as much as possible! Yes, a nice 20 minute (1 mile) walk counts!

From Medical Xpress: Not much exercise needed to lower heart disease risk for overweight people

A new study suggests, for obese or overweight adults, that any amount of exercise might lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.  ...continue reading "Any Amount of Physical Activity Is Good For Overweight Adults"

Evidence is accumulating that engaging in exercise may not only prevent cancer, but that in those who already have cancer - it may prevent progression of the cancer. Fantastic!

A large 2019 review of 9 studies (755,459 individuals) found that 2 1/2 hours per week of "moderate-intensity" physical activity or exercise (e.g. brisk walks) really lowers the risk of 7 cancers: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, myeloma, liver, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some (but not all) were lowered in a dose response manner, that is, the more exercise (up to 5 hours per week), the bigger the protective effect.

Another 2019 review article stated that there are hundreds of studies in the field of "exercise oncology" which have examined the effect of exercise on cancer in humans. The studies find that exercise may prevent cancer, control cancer progression, and interact positively with anticancer therapies. (One example: a study found regular moderate or vigorous physical activity is associated with lower rates of death in men diagnosed with prostate cancer.)

In addition, hundreds of animal (mice and rat) and laboratory studies show that the anticancer effects of exercise are causal, not just an association. There is evidence that each exercise session actually has an effect on cancer tumors. And that the more exercise sessions, the bigger the effect!

Bottom line: Get out and move, move, move! Plan to do this every week for years.

An infographic that illustrates how exercise has anticancer effects, from The Scientist:  Infographic: Exercise’s Anticancer Mechanisms

Excerpts from the accompanying April 2020 article by Prof. Bente K. Pedersen (Univ. of Copenhagen) on how regular exercise has anticancer effects. From The Scientist: Regular Exercise Helps Patients Combat Cancer

Physical exercise is increasingly being integrated into the care of cancer patients such as Mathilde, and for good reason. Evidence is accumulating that exercise improves the well being of these patients by combating the physical and mental deterioration that often occur during anticancer treatments. Most remarkably, we are beginning to understand that exercise can directly or indirectly fight the cancer itself.  ...continue reading "Regular Exercise Has Anticancer Effects"

Exercise appears to protect against some cancers. Yes, something so simple as merely getting the recommended amount of 2 1/2 hours per week of exercise (e.g. brisk walks) really lowers the risk of 7 cancers: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, myeloma, liver, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The researchers analyzed 9 studies for a total of 755,459 individuals (median age 62 years, 53% females) who were followed for 10.1 years, and found that 50,620 cancers developed. They specifically looked at 15 cancers and found that exercise lowered the risk of 7 cancers. Some, but not all, were lowered in a dose response manner, that is, the more exercise, the bigger the protective effect (e.g. breast, colon, endometrial cancer). How much the cancer risk was lowered with exercise varied by types of cancer: colon (8%-14% lower risk in men), breast (6%-10% lower risk), endometrial (10%-18% lower risk), kidney (11%-17% lower risk), myeloma (14%-19% lower risk), liver (18%-27% lower risk), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (11%-18% lower risk in women).

How much exercise was needed for a cancer protective effect? About 2 1/2 to 5 hours per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. The study looked at "leisure-time" exercise, which can include exercise, sports or any recreational activity which is typically "moderate to vigorous intensity".

The Physical Activity Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Brisk walking is moderate intensity physical activity. Bottom line: get out and move, move, move!

From Medical Xpress: Report links recommended physical activity levels to lower risk of seven cancers   ...continue reading "Exercise May Lower The Risk Of Some Cancers"