Cancer is a truly terrible disease, and with hundreds of variations all affecting patients differently, it's no wonder that more research is needed to help find a cure.
Until a cure is found, though, lives are changed daily by the disease. As of 2009, the prevalence of cancer in the United States was more than 12 million - a horrifying statistic, but also a statistic that's easy to ignore if you're not in the cancer trenches every day. And unfortunately, many people continue to ignore the stats until they, or someone they love, experiences a cancer diagnosis.
I should know, I was one of them.
Over the last few years, cancer has become real to me. Not only have I had my own minor issues with basal cell carcinoma, my dad had prostate cancer, my grandmother had ovarian cancer, my husband had in situ melanoma, and two of my uncles were diagnosed with blood cancers - lymphoma and leukemia, to be exact. This year in March, one of my uncles passed away from leukemia.
No one should have to go through the constant treatments, the ups and downs, the physical and emotional trauma that cancer brings, and no family member or friend should have to experience the pain of seeing a loved one endure and fight the disease.
For these reasons, I'm a huge advocate for using fitness to fight cancer. Not only does regular exercise reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer, it can also be a great way to raise money for cancer research and treatment.
Easy ways to fight cancer with fitness
- Charity starts at home. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to remain as healthy as possible. The American Cancer Society's Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention are pretty straightforward - get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75-minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week while limiting sedentary behaviors. That's only 25 minutes of exercise a day, six days a week! Go for a walk on your lunch break, join a master's swim team or make plans for an active weekend with your family. And remember, activity is cumulative, so 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there all adds up toward your total.
- Keep your healthy loved ones healthy. You shouldn't just be concerned about yourself! Look around you - what if your sister were suddenly stricken with breast cancer, or your husband with lung cancer? Become an advocate for health to those around you, and help them achieve their weekly physical activity quotas. Consider signing up for a local race you can train for together, or start checking in as "fitness buddies" through social media to keep one another accountable.
- Encourage cancer patients to stay active. This may be easier said than done, but if you have a friend or loved one who is living with cancer, research strongly suggests that exercise can improve quality of life and physical functioning throughout treatment. Now, I'm not saying that you should force a nauseated chemo patient to go on a 10 mile bike ride, but when she's feeling up to it, ask if she'd like to take a walk with her dog or go on a hike in the park. A little fresh air, friendly conversation and physical activity may be exactly what she needs.
- Run, walk or ride to raise money. Combine your exercise habit with cancer fundraising by signing up for a race or event put on by a cancer research organization. Most of these events encourage you to raise money for the cause by soliciting donations from coworkers, family and friends, and while some events require you to raise a certain dollar amount, others are happy with whatever you bring in. Put some thought into which event you choose - do you want the event to be casual and appropriate for all fitness levels, or do you want a little more competition? Is there a particular form of cancer you want to raise money for? Do you want to raise money as an individual, or as part of a team? Do you want to participate in a certain type of race? Answering these questions will put you on the right track, and once you know what type of event you're looking for, you're bound to find one in no time. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Not only do I hope their research helps find a cure for two forms of cancer I was personally touched by, but they also offer fundraising events for people of all fitness levels. Their Light the Night Walks are perfect for anyone - young, old, healthy or sick; while their Team in Training and Make Cures Happen events are tailored to the more competitive.
If you haven't been affected by cancer yet, it's just a matter of time. Help bring a cure within reach by using fitness to fight cancer.
Tell me, how have you used fitness to fight cancer? Are there any fundraising races or events you want to participate in?
Disclosure: I’m proud to be working with LLS on this campaign to share information about their Light the Night events in the hopes that we can all work together to end cancer!