Many men up their fitness game in their 40s and 50s to ward off the dreaded middle-aged spread and to protect their hearts, and now a new study has found high fitness levels in midlife may help men survive cancer.
So there’s all the more reason to renew your gym membership.
The researchers found that men aged over 65 who were diagnosed with lung, bowel or prostate cancer, were 32% less likely to die from the disease if they had been very fit when they were middle-aged.
The authors, led by Dr Susan Lakoski, from the University of Vermont, wrote in the journal JAMA Oncology:
“To our knowledge this is the first study to demonstrate that CRF (cardiorespiratory fitness) is predictive of site-specific cancer incidence, as well as risk of death from cancer or CVD (cardiovascular disease) following a cancer diagnosis.”
Tom Stansfeld, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, says the study adds to a growing body of research into the relationship between physical activity and cancer.
“Investigating links between men’s fitness levels and cancer risk, rather than just the amount of physical activity they do, is a new approach,” Stansfeld told HuffPost UK Lifestyle.
“The results reconfirm the benefit of physical activity in decreasing men’s risk of bowel cancer. In women, other research has shown that getting moving can reduce the risk of breast and womb cancers as well.
“Interestingly, the study also found a positive effect of fitness on reducing lung cancer risk, but more research is needed to understand this potential link better.
“Being regularly physically active is great for your overall health and, as this study demonstrates, has benefits far beyond the health of your heart.”
Lakoski and her team used treadmill tests to study the cardiorespiratory fitness of almost 14,000 men in America. They then monitored the men’s health between the ages of 65 to 71 years and six months.
The researchers also found that high midlife fitness was associated with a 55% reduced risk of developing lung cancer and a 44% lower risk of bowel cancer compared with men with low cardiorespiratory fitness.
However, no association was found between fitness levels and risk of developing prostate cancer.
The researchers believe that this may be because fitter men are more likely to request routine blood tests, creating a greater likelihood of prostate cancer diagnosis.
According to Cancer Research UK, experts estimate that more than four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes, such as:
* Not smoking.
* Maintaining a healthy body weight.
*Cutting back on alcohol.
* Eating a healthy, balanced diet.
* Keeping active.
* Avoiding certain infections (like HPV).
* Staying safe in the sun.