We often go on about the importance of training hard. Of course, it is also important to give yourself time to recover and recuperate for adaptations to take place, but the underlying message is that in order to stimulate change, you need to train hard enough.
However, a recent study in Finland may well suggest that how hard you exercise and in particular how active your leisure time is, can have an impact on your future health. This study looked at the relationship between intensity of leisure time activity and development of cancer in men. You can find a link to the study HERE.
In the study they found that men who exercised in their leisure time at a level above 5.2 METS (Metabolic equivalents, where 1 MET is our resting energy expenditure and therefore 5.2 MET's means using 5.2 x the amount of energy used at rest - make sense?) showed significantly lower cancer mortality than those in the lowest quartile of below 3.7 METs. This was AFTER adjusting for age, alcohol and smoking, and other risk factors.
Now, 5.2 isn't particularly hard, for example, if you were to walk at 3.0 m.p.h then you would be working at 3.3 METs, whereas if you were running at 6.0 m.p.h then you would be up at around 10 METs. But the message here is clear that being active and including some higher intensity exercise into your leisure time - be that at the gym or out playing sport - can significantly lower your chances of cancer, in particular lung and gastrointestinal cancers and this should be of great consideration for us all. Although the study was carried out on men, similar studies have been carried out looking at women and breast cancer. It is no great surprise to see this trend echoed in the ladies, where an 11 year study in the U.S found a 20% reduction in post-menopausal women for breast cancer. Interestingly, this reduction was NOT seen in overweight and obese women.
Of course, when it comes to studies on exercise and cancer, the relationship is far from simple and different types of cancer show different relationships and responses to exercise both in risk and in treatment. However, it would seem that evidence is growing to suggest that exercise - in particular more vigourous exercise - can reduce your risk of several types of cancer, including the more common forms of breast, lung, and stomach cancer.