Beating cancer is a huge feat, but how survivors live their lives afterward also influences their longevity. A new study shows those who sit too much and are not physically active are much more likely to die early from cancer or any other cause than those who are more active.
Data on cancer survivors who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2014 showed that inactive survivors who reported sitting more than eight hours a day were at the highest risk of dying.
“Cancer survivors who did not meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans [150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity leisure-time physical activity] and sit longer than eight hours per day had more than a fivefold increase in the risk of death from all causes — cancer and non-cancer,” says lead researcher Lin Yang. She is a research scientist in the department of cancer epidemiology and prevention research at Cancer Care Alberta in Calgary, Canada.
Yang notes that these findings cannot prove that inactivity causes earlier deaths among cancer survivors, only that there is an association.
“There is a need for future investigations on the causal relationships between sedentary behavior, physical activity and survival after cancer, as well as the biological mechanisms operating these relationships,” she adds.
The link was particularly troubling because the researchers found that as many as one-third of cancer survivors didn’t exercise and sat more than six hours a day. Only about one-third got the recommended 150 hours of exercise a week, Yang shares.
“As we are facing the reality of a rapidly growing population of cancer survivors, interventions are timely and critical to target behavior changes,” she adds. “The challenge lies in how to personalize these interventions, given the diverse profiles of cancer survivors. Our study has clinical and policy implications to collectively create programs that provide cancer survivors with capability, motivation and opportunities to initiate positive changes to sit less and move more.”
For the study, Yang’s team collected data on more than 1,500 cancer survivors. During up to nine years of follow-up,