Health & fitness: Exercise can help prevent, control cancer

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By Kent Pegg

Cancer is one of the major killers of Americans today. Each year, more than 500,000 Americans die of cancer, with lung cancer, prostate or breast cancer, and colorectal cancer claiming the most victims.Despite the numerous genetic and environmental causes of cancer and its effect on so many Americans’ lives, there are some things you can do to limit your risk of cancer and to reduce its impact if you have cancer.Regular cancer screenings, proper nutritional habits and regular exercise have all been shown to be beneficial methods for fighting cancer.The American Cancer Society reports that more than half of all new cancer cases occur in areas of the body where screenings can be conducted. They estimate that if all Americans underwent regular screenings the survival rates for these cancers could be as high as 95 percent.Proper nutrition is also important in cancer prevention. The National Center for Health Statistics report that 33 percent of all cancers are caused by poor nutrition.Exercise is another key component in the fight against cancer. Research has shown that exercise retards cancer growth at several different sites.Also, exercise can help fight cancer through enhancing the activity of some cells in the immune system like natural killer cells (white blood cells that kill certain types of cancers), cytotoxic T cells and macrophages.In 1997, the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that a panel of cancer experts determined that 30-40 percent of cancer could be prevented “if people ate a healthy diet, avoided obesity and participated in an adequate amount of exercise.” Cancer patients should always check with their physicians before beginning or changing their exercise routines.In general, cancer patients undergoing treatment should focus on light exercise to maintain strength and endurance, and to try to increase their level of function. Cancer survivors in remission or after cure should seek exercises that will return them to their former level of physical fitness.For all cancer patients, an exercise program should include the three basic components of physical fitness: cardio endurance, muscle strengthening and flexibility.Flexibility training can be achieved through stretching exercises or by taking a stretching or yoga class.Whether you’re trying to prevent cancer or recovering from it, consider improving your level of physical conditioning. Proper fitness could be one of the keys to keeping your body cancer free.

Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center. If you have any questions about the information or exercises in this column, you can call him at 662-5232.