You may already know one of the benefits of exercise includes optimizing your body to fight disease. Now, we have very robust, specific evidence showing that a solid prescription of physical activity can drastically lower your risk of 13 different types of cancers! I can’t stress this enough — this is empowering news that we all need to embrace.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at information from 1.4 million people ages 19 to 98 collected over the course of about 11 years. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University and other leading global research organizations gleaned data on people’s exercise during leisure time (things like brisk walking, swimming and running) and at what intensity.

People who were most active enjoyed a reduced risk of 13 different types of cancers compared to those who exercised the least and lived sedentary lifestyles. Exercise appeared to be most protective against esophageal cancer (42 percent lower risk), followed by liver cancer (27 percent lower risk) and lung cancer (26 percent lower risk).

Those who exercised the most enjoyed a 23 percent lower risk of kidney cancer, a 22 lower risk of gastric cardia (a type of stomach cancer), a 21 percent lower risk of endometrial cancers, a 20 percent lower risk of myeloid leukemia, a 17 percent lower risk of myeloma, a 16 percent lower risk of colon cancer, a 15 percent lower risk head and neck cancer, a 13 percent lower risk of both rectal and bladder cancers and a 10 percent reduced risk of breast cancer. (The study did find exercise slightly increased the risk of melanoma and a type of slow-growing prostate cancer.)

The researchers note that this was an observational study so the link between exercise and cancer reduction is “proven,” but we do know that exercise changes hormone levels, the degree of disease-causing inflammation, digestion and overall energy balance in a way that could likely contribute to the lower risk.

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