CARDIFF, Wales — Drink less? Exercise more? Do your New Year’s resolutions involve healthy life changes? If so, the benefits may be greater than you think — especially if you don’t give up. A new study finds that taking on healthy behaviors and sticking to them will lower your risk of developing cancer.
Researchers at Cardiff University obtained preliminary data on more than 343,000 adults between the ages 40 and 69 from the United Kingdom’s Biobank, a research service that monitors and collects health data from a half-million participants. About 14,000 were diagnosed with cancer in a five-year follow-up.
The team sought out adults who followed five specific healthy behaviors — each of which a person might select as a potential new year’s resolution. The behaviors included eating healthier, not smoking cigarettes, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy BMI.
Compared to people who didn’t adopt any or only one of the behaviors, participants whose lifestyles included all five healthy characteristics lowered their risk of cancer by a third. Of course, it may be harder to take on multiple healthy resolutions, but even changing your habits to take on just one of the behaviors will still decrease the chances of having cancer.
“Perhaps the advice to take up one additional healthy behaviour is the most acceptable message for most subjects,” says Professor Peter Elwood, one of the study’s co-authors, in a news release. “In our study each additional healthy behaviour was associated with a reduction of about 8% in cancer, independent of the effects of the other behaviours.”
So while many people often give up on achieving their resolutions after just a few months, the authors hope their work will entice more people to keep up the hard work. They point to the fact that there many be no better way to improve one’s health than by simply sticking to the plan.
“The take-home message is that healthy behaviours can have a truly tangible benefit,” he says. “A healthy lifestyle has many benefits additional to cancer reduction: it costs nothing, has no undesirable side effects — and is better than any pill!”
The study’s findings were published online this week in the journal ecancermedicalscience.