A new study by the American Cancer Society (ACS) finds that putting on the walking shoes and staying off the couch can extend the lives of colon cancer survivors. The findings reinforce the latest recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine that cancer patients should – whenever possible – be regularly active as well as avoid inactivity.
The ACS researchers used the large Cancer Prevention Study II to compare activity levels with length of survival in around 2300 colon cancer patients. The results showed that how active as well as how sedentary patients were both before and after diagnosis had a real impact on how long patients lived after being diagnosed with the disease.
Those patients who walked around 2.5 hours per week after diagnosis were 40 percent less likely to die of any cause during the length of the study than those who walked less than an hour a week. A history of walking that same amount before diagnosis lowered the risk of dying by 28 percent.
Being sedentary – regardless of how activity patients were – also had a important link with survival. Those who spent six or more hours per day sitting before diagnosis had a 36 percent greater risk of dying of any cause during the study than those who sat less than 3 hours per day. After diagnosis, sitting for six or more hours per day increased the risk of dying specifically of colon cancer by 62 percent.
The data on the benefits of exercise keep accruing – both in preventing disease and in extending life (and quality of life) after a diagnosis. And the amounts that provide real benefit are fairly modest. Two and a half hours of walking translates to a little over 20 minutes a day, which can be built up with small bouts – walking to the store, walking to the park, walking home from the bus stop, or taking the stairs more often.
Cutting back on sedentary time is also fairly easy. At work or school, take walking breaks when possible or set up your desk so you can stand while working – a cardboard box to set your computer on can really cut down on daytime sit-time. Simply turning off the TV, computer, or tablet can spur interest in less sedentary pursuits. It can take some time and effort to change well-worn habits (especially following cancer diagnosis and treatment), but the benefits can make it well worth the effort.
For more on healthy behaviors after a cancer diagnosis, see: CANCER SURVIVORS’ 8ight Ways to Stay Healthy after Cancer.