Higher VO2 max may protect against certain cancers, study shows

Higher VO2 max may protect against certain cancers, study shows

Men might be able to boost their protection against certain types of cancer by running or engaging in other forms of cardiovascular exercise, according to a new study. Researchers from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences have linked cardio-respiratory fitness to a lower risk of dying from prostate, colon and lung cancer—the three most common types of cancer in men.

older man running

For the study, researchers pored over 10 years of data from 177,709 Swedish men ranging in age from 18 to 75, with the objective of determining how various levels of cardio-respiratory fitness might offer protection against contracting or dying from these specific cancers. Participants were ranked into four groups, from lowest to highest cardio-respiratory fitness.

After measuring participants for VO2 max—the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during dynamic exercise—the researchers found those with higher VO2 max had a significantly lower risk of dying from prostate, colon and lung cancer. They also found that those with a higher VO2 max were at lower risk of developing colon or lung cancer; that data did reveal a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer among this group, however.

Photo: Peloton

While this latest study is unique in its examination of how higher fitness levels can curb rates of certain cancers in men, it adds to a growing list of research linking cardio-respiratory fitness to lower cancer risks. Previous studies have associated exercise with lower rates of stomach cancer as well as lower rates of cancer among girls.

Recent studies have also linked regular physical exercise to other aspects of health and well-being. A study published by researchers in the United States and Mexico earlier this year, for example, found that sticking to a regular running regimen throughout middle age may help prevent or slow memory loss associated with getting older.

Research has also shown that reaping the health benefits of a more active lifestyle doesn’t require a huge investment in time or energy. A report published by the American Heart Association last year showed adults needed only 21 and a half minutes of vigorous exercise—defined as running, walking, bicycling or swimming—a day to lower their risk of premature death.

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