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Stay Fit, Protect Lungs

Greater Cardiorespiratory Fitness May Lower Risk of Lung Cancer 

Have you ever started running, biking or swimming so fast that you need to stop and catch your breath? This is where you reach your VO2max, the maximum amount of oxygen the body can take in and use during exercise and a useful way to measure cardiorespiratory fitness. A higher VO2max is beneficial for athletes who need to keep going far and fast, but the benefits may extend beyond the finish line of the race. A study from Finland finds greater cardiorespiratory fitness may help protect against lung cancer. 

For the study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2,305 men ages 42 to 61 years exercised until maximum exertion on a stationary bike, with the workload getting harder the longer they rode. Researchers measured oxygen consumption and determined their cardiorespiratory fitness by measuring riders’ VO2max. 

About 20 years later, researchers checked in on participants’ health. Men who had the highest VO2max had a 31% reduced risk of lung cancer compared to men with the lowest VO2max. Researchers attribute this effect to the benefits of physical activity: improved immune function, energy balance, and healthy weight management. 

Age, gender, and genetics play a role in determining VO2max, but your lifestyle choices play a role too. You can increase your cardiorespiratory fitness by maintaining a healthy weight, working out regularly, and, perhaps most importantly, not smoking. Mix up your exercise routine to reap the greatest benefits. Vary longer cardio sessions with shorter, more intense interval sessions each week. You will strengthen your heart, muscles and lungs; improve your oxygen efficiency; and potentially reduce your risk of lung cancer and other chronic diseases. 

BONUS: Want to incorporate interval training into your exercise routine? Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may actually feel easier than continuous exercise while reaping the same caloric burn.

Published April 1, 2016

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