Doing This for Just 30 Minutes a Day Lowers Your Risk of Cancer Death

If you're sitting down while reading this, you might want to get up and get moving.

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Many of us have been doing our fair share of sitting over the past few months thanks to stay-at-home orders and more indoor time than ever. But whether you're ready to jump back into the outside world or not, it's important to incorporate some movement into your day. We already know the health risks of sitting too much, but a new study shows why it's essential to translate some of our couch time into something a little more dynamic. In fact, replacing 30 minutes of sitting time with physical activity could lower your risk of cancer death.

Of course, that also means that sitting without incorporating some movement can do real harm. Research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, published on June 18 in JAMA Oncology, found that the study's most sedentary individuals had an 82 percent higher risk of cancer death than the least sedentary. Researchers say this is the first study to conclusively link not moving and cancer mortality.

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Thankfully, a little bit of movement can make a big difference. The study found that just 30 minutes of physical activity in lieu of sitting reduced the risk of cancer death by as much as 31 percent, when the activity was of moderate intensity, like cycling. But even 30 minutes of light-intensity activity, such as taking a leisurely walk, lowered cancer mortality risk by 8 percent.

"Conversations with my patients always begin with why they don't have time to exercise. I tell them to consider standing up for 5 minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator," study lead author Susan Gilchrist, MD, associate professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention, said in a statement. "It might not sound like a lot, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits."

young asian woman stretching in a park
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This isn't the only recent research to emphasize the importance of physical activity. A June 17 study published in The Lancet Global Health found that physical activity prevents almost 4 million deaths a year. Globally, researchers found that there was a 15 percent reduction in premature death thanks to getting a little exercise.

If you're looking for ways to incorporate physical activity into your life, the study authors recommend daily walks, bike rides, or runs, as well as stretching, yoga, and even gardening. Plus, as they note, there are proven benefits to working out in green spaces. Even if your gym has reopened, consider exercising in the park instead.

And, of course, do a little less sitting overall, per the JAMA Oncology study. "Our findings reinforce that it's important to 'sit less and move more' and that incorporating 30 minutes of movement into your daily life can help reduce your risk of death from cancer," Gilchrist said. And for some quick ways to get moving, try The 50 Best 5-Minute Exercises Anyone Can Do.

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