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The Power of Youthful Fitness: A Closer Look at the Link Between Early Cardio Health and Cancer Risk

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Fitness isn't just about looking good in your Speedo’s (as my last blog delved into). A groundbreaking study from Sweden has provided compelling insights into the profound benefits of staying active during our younger years. The study suggests that our teenage and early adult years might be the golden time to keep those running shoes close.

Between 1968 and 2005, the researchers observed over one million Swedish conscripts, all between the ages of 16 and 25 when the study began. Flash forward through three decades, and the findings are worth every bead of sweat shed during those youthful years of exercise. Those with better cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) showed a staggering lower risk of developing 9 types of cancer, especially gastrointestinal tract cancers.


The participants were divided into three fitness tiers based on their CRF, measured through a simple exercise bike test.


Those with the highest CVF:

- A whopping 42% lower risk of lung cancer.

- A 40% dip in the chances of liver and esophagus cancers.

- Substantial reductions in risks for kidney, bowel, stomach, and several other cancers.


However, men with higher CRF were also found to have slightly higher risks for prostate and skin cancers, possibly due to increased screenings and exposure to UV rays.


A Universal Truth: Some Exercise is Better Than None

Dr. Onerup's advice (lead Author) is both motivating and heartwarming. Even if we didn't hit the gym daily in our teens or sprinted like a pro in our early 20s, the message is clear: it's never too late. Every bit of physical activity is a step towards better health. Other research has shown that taking a sedentary individual and getting them to do 90mins of moderate exercise per week reduced all-cause mortality by 14%!


A Balanced Perspective

While the results are promising, it's vital to remember that other lifestyle factors like diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits play crucial roles in our overall cancer risk. Furthermore, this was an observational study, emphasizing correlations rather than causations - yet, the implications are hard to ignore. Dr. Melinda Irwin from Yale Cancer Center suggests that a higher CRF could enhance metabolic, inflammatory, and immune functions - all key players in reducing cancer risk.


The Takeaway

Our youthful years are not just about adventures, love, and learning, but also about laying the foundation for a healthier future. This study serves as a potent reminder of the ripple effect of our choices. It's not just about today's gains but about the decades of wellness that lie ahead. So, whether you're 16, 26, or 56, remember: your body will thank you for every active step you take!

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