A new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has found that being fit in youth is associated with a lower risk of developing nine different types of cancer in later life. The study is based on data from more than 1 million Swedish men who underwent a mandatory military fitness test when they were between 16 and 25 years old. The men were followed for an average of 33 years, from 1968 to 2005, and their cancer diagnoses were recorded.
The researchers measured the men’s cardiorespiratory fitness, which is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to the muscles during exercise. They divided the men into three groups based on their fitness levels: low, moderate, and high. They then compared the incidence of cancer among the groups, adjusting for factors such as age, body mass index, education, and smoking.
A lower risk of cancer for high-fitness men
The results showed that the men with high fitness levels had a significantly lower risk of developing several types of cancer than the men with low fitness levels. The largest reductions in risk were observed for cancers of the lung (42%), liver (40%), and esophagus (39%). The high-fitness men also had a lower risk of cancers of the head and neck (19%), stomach (20%), colon (20%), kidney (20%), pancreas (21%), and bowel (22%).
The researchers estimated that for every 10% increase in fitness level, there was a corresponding 5% decrease in overall cancer risk. They also found that the association between fitness and cancer risk was stronger for gastrointestinal cancers than for other cancers.
The possible mechanisms and implications
The researchers suggested that fitness may protect against cancer by improving immune function, reducing inflammation, enhancing DNA repair, and regulating hormones. They also noted that fitness may be a marker of other healthy behaviors, such as diet and physical activity, that may also influence cancer risk.
The study is one of the largest and longest to examine the link between fitness and cancer risk across multiple sites. It adds to the growing evidence that physical activity and exercise can prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases, including cancer.
However, the study also has some limitations, such as relying on a single measure of fitness at a young age, not accounting for changes in fitness or lifestyle over time, and not including women or other ethnic groups. Therefore, more research is needed to confirm and extend the findings.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Aron Onerup from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said that the study highlights the importance of promoting fitness in youth and throughout life. He said that increasing fitness levels can have a substantial impact on reducing cancer risk and improving public health.
“Fitness is something that can be improved by most people through regular physical activity,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be at an elite level; even a moderate increase can have a positive effect.”
Young fitness is a term that can refer to the physical and mental well-being of young people. It can also refer to the activities and habits that promote health and fitness among young people. Some benefits of young fitness are:
- It improves cardiovascular health, muscle strength, bone density, and flexibility.
- It reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic diseases.
- It enhances cognitive function, memory, attention, and learning.
- It boosts mood, self-esteem, confidence, and social skills.
- It fosters creativity, curiosity, and exploration.