January 7, 2014 | by Nicole White
As the calendar flipped to a new year, many of us made well-meaning promises to exercise more – and to really mean it this year. Chances are those promises will be forgotten before we’re used to writing 2014 on our checks.
Moving more is all about motivation. Looking better, feeling better, fitting into smaller jeans, running a race faster, keeping up with kids, increasing energy – all are common motivations, and good ones. An even better one: Regular exercise can reduce your risk of cancer and diabetes.
Making the commitment to enough exercise to reduce the risk of these diseases will barely cut into your schedule. Past studies suggest that even three 10-minute sessions of cycling with 10 to 20 second bursts of high-intensity sprints can reduce diabetes risk. The American Diabetes Association recommends moderate-intensity exercise – such as a brisk walk – 30 minutes a day, five days a week to minimize risk.
Researchers are still assessing the type and intensity of exercise most beneficial for cancer risk reduction, but it’s likely to be fairly modest based on the studies that are available. For example, for best reduction in breast cancer risk, women should exercise three to four hours per week – about 25 to 35 minutes per day, according to Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., director of the Division of Etiology at City of Hope. The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity weekly, preferably spread throughout the week.
Tips for getting started:
Don’t take an all or nothing approach. If finding a 30-minute block of time in a busy schedule is daunting, break your exercise up into 10- or 15-minute segments. Do as much as is manageable, until exercise becomes routine.
Make it a habit. Bernstein’s study results are culled from the California Teachers Study tracking participants’ activity levels over many years. To reap the full benefits, plan on making exercise a permanent commitment. It’s never too late to start – and a little exercise is better than none at all.
Rethink your definition of exercise. Exercise can be using an elliptical machine or treadmill for 45 minutes at the gym – if that’s what you enjoy. Exercise can also be a fun class, dancing, vigorous yard work or team sports. Anything that gets you moving more counts – whether working in a walk at lunchtime or wearing a pedometer to inspire more daily steps.
Remember that exercise benefits everyone. Whether you’re in good physical shape or struggling with obesity, exercise will be beneficial, Bernstein has found in her research. For some, even just 30 minutes a week made some difference. Overweight people who exercised at an intermediate level for 30 minutes to three hours per week reduced their risk of cancer death by 48 percent.
Don’t be shy about being a beginner. Even professional athletes were beginners once. If you don’t know proper form for an exercise, how a machine at the gym works, how to do a perfect push-up or what a burpee is – don’t be afraid to ask.
Follow these steps, and 2014 might be the year exercise becomes a routine part of your life.