It’s a sunny summer day. You’re sitting by the pool, eating a non-organic apple, drinking bottled water and talking on your cell phone. Which of these is most likely to increase your risk of cancer?
Despite recent concerns about plastics, pesticides and cell phones, it turns out sitting may be the greatest risk factor, especially if you sit for long periods of time. Physical activity burns calories, and the more calories we expend, even by standing, the less likely we are to gain weight. According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, colon, uterus, esophagus and kidney.
If you are a cancer survivor who struggles with the very common fear of cancer recurrence, or you have a family history of cancer, where do you start?
Buy a pedometer
Steer clear of the freebie pedometers given out at health fairs and invest in a quality device that syncs with your computer. You can find a good one for less than $40. Then wear it every single day. Track your daily steps for one week to find out your baseline, and then set a goal each week to increase your steps by 500 to 1000 per day until you reach 10,000 steps per day. If you are in the midst of cancer treatment, 10,000 steps may seem overwhelming, but there is substantial evidence that increasing physical activity during treatment helps reduce fatigue.
Sign up for a charity race
Not only will you raise money for a good cause, but the training program will also get you moving. If you have never done a race before, start with a 5K (3.1 miles). Running is not required – the goal is to get you moving.
Take a TV hiatus
Replace your TV watching habit with physical activity. Set the DVR for your favorite shows then spend your evening in your garden, playing with your children or your dog, or going for a long walk. When you must watch your favorite show, limit TV time to no more than 60 minutes and get up from the couch at each commercial break to walk around the house, do squats or do sit ups.
Set an hourly alarm at home and work
If you work at a desk job, get up from your desk every hour to take a break. Use your cell phone alarm, or set a reminder in Outlook as a reminder to move. Walk to a coworker’s office instead of emailing, step outside for some fresh air, or take a lap around the parking lot.
Keep your weekends as active as possible
If you are currently in the midst of cancer treatment, this may be difficult, but if you are through treatment and work at a desk job all week, maximize your activity on the weekend. Go for walk at a local park, swim at the lake or pool, bike with your family, or work in your garden.