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What Surprising Exercise Cuts Your Cancer Risk by 40 Percent?

June 13, 2009 | 146,859 views

lift weights, strength trainingMen with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 percent less likely to die from cancer, according to new research.

The findings suggest that muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthy when it comes to protecting your body against deadly tumors.

A team of experts tracked the lifestyles of over 8,500 men for more than two decades. Each volunteer had regular medical check ups that included tests of their muscular strength. The men who regularly worked out with weights and had the highest muscle strength were between 30 percent and 40 percent less likely to lose their life to a deadly tumor.

Even among volunteers who were overweight, regular weight training seemed to have a protective effect, although the researchers stressed that keeping a healthy weight was still crucial for avoiding premature death.

But they added, "In the light of these results, it is equally important to maintain healthy muscular strength levels.”

Researchers said it’s possible to reduce cancer mortality rates in men by promoting resistance training involving the major muscle groups at least two days a week.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The results of this study -- that men who regularly work out with weights and have high muscle strength can reduce their risk of cancer by 30-40 percent -- should provide major motivation for any of you still on the fence about adding strength training to your exercise routine.  

One of the primary reasons exercise works to lower your cancer risk is because it drives your insulin levels down. Controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks.

It’s also been suggested that apoptosis (programmed cell death) is triggered by exercise, causing cancer cells to die.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a well-rounded exercise program is an important component of staying healthy. When I say “well rounded” I mean a program that includes the four primary types of exercise, as explained in my Principles of Exercise video:
1. Aerobic
2. Interval
3. Strength
4. Core
Unfortunately, many public health guidelines are still focusing only on the aerobic component, and merely focusing on aerobic activity will most definitely lead to imbalances that will cause other parts of your body to not be healthy. You really need a well balanced exercise regimen.

It’s important to vary your exercise routine as otherwise your muscles simply get used to the same activity. They require a level of muscle confusion if they are to continue to improve and grow stronger. Further, each type of exercise has very different and very specific impacts on your body, and you’ll want to take advantage of all of them.

This topic is truly very near and dear to my heart, as I went to medical school in large part because I wanted to use exercise as a therapeutic tool to help people get healthier. I strongly believe that without fitness, it is virtually impossible to achieve optimal health.
The Benefits of Strength Training
As you age your muscle mass diminishes, and strength training is one of the best ways to replace the lean muscle mass that you’ve lost. If you don’t challenge your muscles in this way, the percentage of fat in your body will keep increasing while your muscle mass will keep decreasing.

So strength training is of utmost importance as you get older, but should ideally be done regularly throughout your life to both preserve and enhance your muscle mass.

Strength training also offers these additional benefits:
• Increases your bone density while lowering your risk of osteoporosis
• Lose weight (the more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body burns calories)
Protects your joints from injury
• Helps maintain flexibility and balance
• Improves your stamina and lessens fatigue
How to Use Strength Training for Optimal Benefits
Contrary to popular belief, a 1-set strength training routine is typically plenty to get the most out of your workout.

A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise confirmed that for the average person exercising by strength training, the number of repetitions (the number of times a muscle or group of muscles is used to lift a weight) is not of major importance; a single set of repetitions was found to be almost as effective in maintaining fitness as three sets.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) -- the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world -- and the U.S. Surgeon General have also been recommending a 1-set exercise program for some time.

So incorporating a simple 1-set, five- to 30-minute weight lifting routine into your regular program will definitely improve fitness, and is a practical, obtainable goal for most people. There are some key concepts to keep in mind, however, as not just any set of weight training will do.

You need to do enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild -- more is not better here.

Later this year I plan on introducing a comprehensive state of the art comprehensive personal training option that can easily guide you through this entire process.
How to Round Out Your Exercise Routine, and Why You Should
I highly recommend finding a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals, but if you cannot afford it or live in an area without access to one, you can still reap the benefits of exercise if you focus on varying your routine. So along with your strength training program, make sure you also incorporate the following into your exercise routine:
1. Aerobic: Jogging, using an elliptical machine, and walking fast are all examples of aerobic exercise. As you get your heart pumping, the amount of oxygen in your blood improves, and endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, increase.

Meanwhile, aerobic exercise activates your immune system, helps your heart pump blood more efficiently, and increases your stamina over time.

2. Interval (Anaerobic) Training: Research is showing that the BEST way to condition your heart and burn fat is NOT to jog or walk steadily for an hour. Instead, it’s to alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.

This type of exercise, known as interval training or burst type training, can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities.

For example, intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under your skin within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation increases weight loss. So, short bursts of activity done at a very high intensity can help you reach your optimal weight and level of fitness, in a shorter amount of time.

3. Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.

Exercise programs like Pilates and yoga are great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.
Ready to Get Started?
More than half of U.S. adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise, and one out of four don’t exercise at all.


A lack of time is the most common reason given for not exercising.

To help avoid falling into this trap, you need to arrange your schedule around exercise. Plan it into your day the same way you would an important meeting and consider it non-negotiable, like mealtimes and sleep.

When you begin to view exercise as a necessary component to your health, rather than a luxury, it becomes easier to find time for it during even the busiest days. For you, the best time to exercise may be first thing in the morning. Others may find early afternoon to work best.

The important key to remember is that it doesn’t matter when you exercise (with the exception of exercising too close to bedtime, which can keep you awake), just that you make time for it most days of the week.

For more information on how to get the most benefits from exercise, including proper intensity and duration, read through this comprehensive article Exercise to Improve Your Body and Brain.

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