A New Year’s resolution is a tradition in which you make a promise to do an act of self-improvement. Being more physically active is one of the top five most common New Year’s resolutions. Whether you want to get in shape for vanity or for health, you should know that exercise can reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including more than 13 different types of cancer.

An international team of researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, got together to determine the association of leisure-time physical activity (exercise done at one’s own discretion such as walking, running, swimming, etc.) with incidence of common types of cancer, and whether associations vary by body size and/or smoking. The study included data on 1.44 million people aged 19 to 98 from the United States and Europe and was able to examine a broad range of cancers, including rare malignancies. The median level of physical activity for participants in the study was about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, which is what the American guidelines recommend for the U.S. population.

The researchers found that people who were more physically active had a reduced risk for 13 of 26 types of cancer, compared to those with the lowest level of physical activity. People with the highest physical activity had a 20% lower risk for 7 cancer types: esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver, lung, kidney, gastric cardia, endometrial, and myeloid leukemia. They also had a 10-20% lower risk for myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and breast.

Below are some tips to stay on track with your New Year’s resolutions:

  • Set simple and realistic goals. Short term goals are easier to achieve.
  • Schedule it. We all have busy lives, so you need to schedule time for exercising or you will never have extra time to do it.
  • Make a to-do list every day.
  • Measure your progress. As you achieve your short term goals, you will feel more motivated to go for bigger ones.
  • Set reminders in your cellphone or place visual aids in your house or office.
  • Be patient! Something is better than nothing.
  • Share your goals and achievements with friends and family. They will continue to encourage you to reach your goals.
  • If you fail, do not give up. Get up and try again.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I hope you achieve all your goals in the New Year.