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Men Gain More From Cardio Than Fitness — They Also Gain Protection From Cancers

A new study found that cardiovascular fitness is associated with a reduced risk of the most common types of cancers in men.

Two senior men jogging outdoors in nature.
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A new study has given you even more reason not to skip that morning run, or to forego adding a quick bike ride onto the end of your lifting session — especially if you’re a man. According to this new research, a regular cardio routine could help prevent certain deadly cancers in men.

A new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that high cardiovascular fitness is linked to a lower risk of dying from prostate, lung, and colon cancers — some of the most common cancers in men.

A research team from The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences examined data collected from 177,709 men between the ages of 18 and 75 over almost ten years. After having the men use a stationary bike for six minutes, the team calculated the participants' ability to efficiently use oxygen during exercise. The researchers then grouped the men into four groups, ranked from lowest to highest cardio fitness.

They found that cardio fitness was related to the likelihood of developing or dying from prostate, colon, or lung cancer. Moderate and high cardio fitness was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer; low, moderate, and high cardio fitness was associated with a lower risk of dying from prostate cancer; and high cardio fitness was associated with a lower risk of dying from lung cancer.

"The clinical implications of these findings further emphasize the importance of CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness] for possibly reducing cancer incidence and mortality," the authors wrote. "It is important for the general public to understand that higher-intensity [physical activity] has greater effects on CRF and is likely to be more protective against the risk of developing and dying from certain cancers."

This study adds to the existing body of research pointing to the importance of regular cardio exercise, and it’s not just about preventing cancer. One recent study found that if you have high blood pressure, at least some of the ill effects of that condition could be ameliorated by exercise. Another study found that even just six minutes of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout can give you a brain boost. And walking for five minutes every half hour can give you major health benefits.

Basically, it’s well known that cardio exercise improves cardiovascular health and increases longevity, and if you care more about your health than just looking swole, this might be the motivation you need to go get some steps in.

The new study has a few limitations that should be noted. Only employed participants were included in the datasets, meaning there could be variations based on socio-economic factors that were not considered. Also, the equipment used to determine oxygen use during exercise only provides an estimate of oxygen use, although it is thought to produce clinically accurate results.

As the study included only Swedish men, more research is needed to determine if these results are repeatable across demographics.