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By Selene Yeager
These new findings join previous research finding a protective benefit of exercise like strength training and HIIT on cancer risk.
There are countless reasons to strength train: Lifting weights helps you power up hills, build bones, improve your blood sugar control, ward off heart disease, and prevent increases in health-wrecking belly fat. A growing body of evidence shows it may even lower your risk of cancer, too.
Now, new research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisesuggests weight lifting may be particularly beneficial for lowering the risk of colon cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the U.S.
In the new study, researchers mined data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health study to see how weight training affected the risk for 10 common cancer types. The NIH-AARP Diet and Health study includes diet, health, and lifestyle information pooled from more than 560,000 AARP members between the ages of 50 and 71 in 1995 to 1996, who were sent follow-up questionnaires in 2004 to 2006.
The researchers found that strength training significantly reduced the risk of colon cancer: Those who lifted weights had about a 25 percent lower risk for the common cancer type than those who didn’t lift. Weight lifting also seemed to have a protective effect against kidney cancer, too.
This may be because strength training can help promote something called glucose homeostasis, or the balance of insulin and glucagon to help maintain your blood sugar levels. That’s important, since high blood sugar has been linked to greater colon cancer risk.
These findings build on previous research showing a protective role of pumping iron. Previous research on the exercise habits of more than 80,000 adults found that people who lifted weights just twice a week were 31 percent less likely to die from cancer.
Research from earlier this year found that high intensity interval training (HIIT) also might be protective against colon cancer. A study published in The Physiology Societyfound that the growth of colon cancer cells in colorectal cancer survivors was immediately reduced after just a single session of HIIT.
Though more research is needed, there’s no reason to not add HIIT work and lifting weights to your training arsenal anyway. You’ll get stronger, faster, healthier, and just might reduce your risk for at least some forms of cancer.