Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but according to a large new study, the benefits of physical activity may be greater than you even realized. In a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine and shared by Forbes, the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium looked at data from more than 1.44 million adults and found that those who engaged in physical activity had a reduced risk for 13 of the 26 types of cancer included in the analysis.
Forbes reports that none of the participants had cancer when the study began. Eleven years later, there were 186,932 cancer incidents reported. The researchers found that there was a connection between physical activity and the presence of cancers of the lung, bladder, breast, kidney, liver, rectum, colon, head and neck, and other areas of the body. While it was expected that the risk of cancers related to body fat would decrease with exercise, the data suggests that physical activity also benefits other systems and functions of the body.
Of the cancers that showed a reduced risk, esophageal adenocarcinoma saw the sharpest decline at 42 percent, while liver, lung, kidney, gastric cardia, endometrial, and myeloid leukemia all saw between 20 and 30 percent drops with exercise. Conversely, the researchers also found a link between physical activity and an increased risk of malignant melanoma—most likely because exercising outside increased sun exposure—and a more confusing link to prostate cancer. Forbes suggests that the latter may be because active men are more likely to be screened for the cancer more frequently.
Reducing cancer risks is one in a long list of benefits associated with exercise, which includes improved bone density, younger-looking brains in senior citizens, and other positive physical and emotional effects. This study included leisure-time activities like swimming, walking, and running, but there are so many other ways that you can and should be active—so stop reading this and get to it.