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Exercise Can Protect Against Two Major Diseases


Elderly and middle-age people exercise during a health promotion event in Tokyo, September 2015. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Elderly and middle-age people exercise during a health promotion event in Tokyo, September 2015. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

We all know that exercise keeps us healthy. But two new studies get more specific. They look at how exercise may lower the risk of two major causes of death – cancer and stroke.

One study says exercise may lower the risk for 13 types of cancer. Another says that middle-aged people can reduce their chance of having a stroke by exercising.

First let’s talk about cancer.

Steven Moore of the National Cancer Institute led a team of researchers to study more than 1.4 million people.

The study looked at participants in 12 U.S. and European groups. These people reported on their physical activity between 1987 and 2004. The researchers looked at the occurrence of 26 kinds of cancer among the participants during, on average, the next 11 years.

Many participants reported walking, running and swimming. The researchers took into account how long they exercised per week, what they ate, if they were obese and if they smoked.

In an interview with NBC News, Moore explains that exercise "can help people reduce their risk of heart disease. It can reduce the risk of diabetes.” It helps you live longer. And now, he adds, it appears that it may reduce the risks of some cancers."

Moore and his team found that exercise lowered the risk of developing:

  • cancer of the esophagus by 42 percent
  • liver cancer by 27 percent
  • lung cancer by 26 percent and
  • breast cancer by 10 percent.

Exercise also lowered the risk of a specific type of leukemia by 20 percent.

Moore told NBC that there are some possible explanations for the findings. First, exercise can lower hormone levels like estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen would lower the risk of breast and endometrial cancers. He adds that exercise helps maintain insulin and that may lower overall inflammation in the body.

However, one type of cancer puzzled the researchers.

They found that exercise increased the chance of developing prostate cancer by five percent. But they wrote that they could not explain the connection.

The researchers also found that people who did heavier exercises had a slightly higher rate of skin cancer. This, they say, could be from more sun exposure.

Now, how exercise affects strokes.

The more fit a person is in middle age, the less likely he or she will have a crippling stroke after age 65.

This is the result of a new study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Doctors studied 20,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 50. They found that those who were most fit from moderate to vigorous exercise had a 37 percent lower risk of a stroke than those who were least fit.

They say the lowered risk of a future stroke was present even when the subjects had other risk factors. These factors include high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.

The researchers of this study say they want doctors to not ignore low levels of exercise and fitness as risk factors for a stroke.

This study was published in the latest issue of the medical journal called Stroke.

I’m Anna Matteo.

VOA News reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

esophagusn. medical : the tube that leads from the mouth through the throat to the stomach

livern. a large organ of the body that produces bile and cleans the blood

lungn. either one of the two organs that people and animals use to breathe air

breastn. the front part of a person's body between the neck and the stomach

leukemia n. medical : a very serious disease in which the body forms too many white blood cells

participant n. a person who is involved in an activity or event : a person who participates in an activity or event

took into account – ​idiomatic phrase. to consider something

endometrialadj. the mucous membrane lining the uterus

insulinn. a substance that your body makes and uses to turn sugar into energy

inflammation n. a condition in which a part of your body becomes red, swollen, and painful

puzzled adj. feeling or showing confusion because something is difficult to understand

fit adj. physically healthy and strong

cripple v. to cause (a person or animal) to be unable to move or walk normally

factors n. something that helps produce or influence a result : one of the things that cause something to happen

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