I think this qualifies as the least shocking medical study of the day. Men who are more fit in middle-age cut their risk of developing lung and colorectal cancers years down the line.

If you still develop the cancers later in life, the fitter you are, the better your survivability rate. Basically, if your midlife crisis involves a gym, that is a good thing. And hey, don’t judge a man if he wants a sports car, too.

In addition to the cancers studied, fitter men also lowered their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Eat well, live well and you live longer. I know, it doesn’t have the intensity of Dr. Oz and his magic coffee beans, but what doctor has ever said, damn, you should go couch potato? For your heart.

The study, published in the March 26 issue of JAMA Oncology, was led by Dr. Susan G. Lakoski. Speaking to Reuters Health, she explained the findings.

“Among the men who developed cancer, those who were more fit at middle age had a lower risk of dying from all the three cancers studied, as well as cardiovascular disease.”

“Even a small improvement in fitness (by 1 MET) made a significant difference in survival – reducing the risks of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease by 10 and 25 percent, respectively.”

What’s a MET? A Metabolic Equivalent of Task is all of us getting off the couch and moving around. Physicians love their acronyms almost as much as the Defense Department. One MET would be the equivalent of running a mile in 11.5 minutes compared to a 12-minute mile.

Fitness Research

Dr. Lakoski’s team collated data from a study involving 13,000 men over the average age of 49. All had underwent comprehensive physical exams, a cardiovascular risk assessment and the treadmill fitness test.

The fitness test involved the men walking on a treadmill at a moderate pace. The incline was adjusted higher over 25 minutes, and then the speed. From there, the participants were timed how long they could continue until exhaustion.

The data was kept until the participants hit 65. Using Medicare records, researchers looked for diagnoses of colorectal, prostate and lung cancer.

For both lung and colorectal cancer, men in the fitness category were half as likely to be diagnosed with colorectal or lung cancer. No link was found between fitness and prostate cancer.

Fitness and Mortality

At the end of the study, 20 percent of the men in the lowest fitness group had died, compared to four and three percent in the moderate and highest fit group. Yeah, I’d buy a treadmill too.

“These findings provide support for the utility of (cardiorespiratory fitness) assessment, via maximal exercise treadmill testing, in preventive health care settings and possibly following a diagnosis of cancer,” she said.

For those looking to get started with exercise, current guidelines have adults at 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, five days a week. You still get weekends off, but why not go for the top fitness category?

Now researchers have to find the exact point in fitness goals that starts to reverse risk in all major cancers. For both men and women. Laying out a general guideline is great for the first step.

The next? Being precise and tailoring it for the individual patient.


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