By Mary Gillis
Did you know that while begrudgingly doing your daily household chores, you may already be reducing your cancer risk by 20 percent?
A recent study in JAMA Oncology suggests that engaging in mundane activities like climbing stairs for one minute, five times a day, can lower the risk of cancer compared to those who don’t.
The authors categorized these activities as Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activities (VILPA), which are short bursts of daily activities that some people do. These activities include:
- Vigorous housework.
- Carrying heavy shopping while grocery shopping.
- Stair climbing.
- Playing high-energy games with kids.
- Power walking in bursts.
Doing less than five minutes of these activities daily reduced the total cancer risk by around 20 percent. For cancers related to physical inactivity, the risk reduction was over 30 percent. These included colon, breast, endometrial, and lung cancer.
“It’s remarkable to see that upping the intensity of daily tasks for as little as four to five minutes a day, in short bursts of around one minute each, is linked to an overall reduction in cancer risk,” said first author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney.
“While further investigation through robust trials is needed, it appears that VILPA may be a promising cost-free recommendation for lowering cancer risk in people who find structured exercise difficult or unappealing.”
The study is observational, which means it cannot prove causation. It has not been established if exercise causally reduces cancer cases. Nevertheless, a recent Mendelian randomization analysis found that exercise may play a causal role in reducing breast cancer risk.
Exercise can improve cardiovascular health, which may be related to cancer. Studies have shown that people with heart disease are 12 percent more likely to develop cancer than those without.
Other factors related to increased daily physical activity include improved insulin sensitivity and reduced chronic inflammation.