Crushing your regular gym routine is good for you (duh). In addition to strong-body benefits and endorphin boosts, exercise has been shown to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and your overall risk of early mortality.
But a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, is making a case for maintaining an active lifestyle even outside of your dedicated sweat sessions.
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute mined a massive pile of existing data (we’re talking 12 studies in the U.S. and Europe involving 1.4 million participants) to explore how active leisure-time activities have an impact on the risk for different types of cancers. The data involved self-reported physical activity from 1987 to 2004 and analyzed the associated risk of 26 different types of cancer over a median 11-year follow-up period.
And they found some pretty big benefits to forgoing downtime on the couch in favor of something more active. Higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower risks of 13 different types of cancer, including liver cancer (27 percent lower risk), lung cancer (26 percent lower risk), kidney cancer (23 percent lower risk), endometrial cancer (21 percent lower risk), colon cancer (16 percent lower risk), and breast cancer (10 percent lower risk).
Overall, higher levels of physical activity were associated with a 7 percent lower risk of total cancer.
Despite the declines, there was one type of cancer that had a significantly higher risk of developing in participants who reported being more active in their leisure time: malignant melanoma. But the solution is simple: If you’re going to keep those leisure-time activity levels up by hitting the hiking trail, taking a walk with friends, or cruising around town on your bike, make sure you slather on the sunscreen first.