Just a few generations ago, most Americans got plenty of exercise in the course of their daily lives. Farmers, manual laborers, and hard-working housewives did not have modern appliances or equipment to help with the heavy work. When I was a child, we had a washtub and scrub board that were saved as a memento of my Grandma Jiannetti who had used them for family laundry. I remember watching my aunt wash clothes with the time-saving device that came next, a wringer washing machine. The clothes agitated in a tub of soapy water, and then she lifted heavy, wet clothes to the wringer. Next she fed them through the rollers to remove most of the soapy water. The process was then repeated a time or two after the clothes had agitated in pure water before she carried a heavy laundry basket outside to hang clothing on the clothes line. After clothes were dry, there was ironing to do. (I did plenty of ironing as a teenager). A lot of exercise was certainly involved in doing laundry years ago.

Now we have appliances to help us at home. At our workplaces, we are much more likely to sit at a computer all day than to do any kind of physical exertion. Thankfully, many Americans exercise regularly. If you don't, now is the time to start exercise that is suited to your individual needs and that you enjoy. Some people take a brisk thirty-minute walk on their lunch hour. With a healthy lunch brought from home, you can eat at your desk while working and then use your lunch time to walk.

Exercise is important for everyone. Moderate exercise, used with a glycemic control diet, is a vital tool for weight loss. Amazingly, how much and what kind of exercise is best for YOU is as much an individual matter as what you eat. There actually are types and amounts of exercise that cause fat deposition rather than fat burning. Do not exercise when you are hungry; have a small protein-containing snack before you begin. Click here to learn about what type of exercise that will help you reach your ideal weight. [2]

Asthmatics especially benefit from exercise, although some avoid it for fear of provoking an asthma attack. (Consult your doctor before you begin an exercise program if you are asthmatic). A gradually built up walking program is an ideal place to start. Walk with your mouth closed and breathe through your nose. Start each walk at a slow pace and gradually increase the speed. If you feel you must breathe through your mouth, slow down. Opening your mouth during exercise thwarts the purpose of exercise for asthmatics (which is to increase the CO2 level in the blood and alveoli of the lungs) and may lead to an asthma attack. [1] The advice Patrick McKeown, a major force in promoting the Buteyko breathing method, gives to all asthmatics is, "Spend as much time as possible outdoors and take some form of exercise." [2] For more about Buteyko breathing click here and here.

While exercise is important for everyone, it is essential for people with cancer. Our defenses against cancer can be directly stimulated by exercise. It helps rid the body of excess fat, which is where carcinogenic toxins are stored. Exercise improves our hormonal balance, decreasing excess estrogen and testosterone that stimulate reproductive system cancers. For all cancers, exercise is beneficial because of its effect on natural killer (NK) cells. If people who regularly exercise hear bad news (as in a threatening medical report), their level of natural killer (NK) cells remains relatively stable. In non-exercisers, the number of NK cells may drop rapidly. [3] Cancer cells metabolize best in anaerobic environments (with little or no oxygen), so exercise, which sends more oxygen to tissues, slows their metabolism. [4] An editorial in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that exercise decreases the chance of relapse 50 to 60 percent for breast cancer, including cases that are not sensitive to estrogen. [5]

In AntiCancer, Dr. Servan-Schreiber gives cancer patients advice on how to succeed in an exercise program. His advice, useful for anyone, is to begin slowly and gently with exercise like walking, possibly progressing to running. Walking to get wherever you can get easily on foot is very beneficial. He emphasizes exercising anywhere and everywhere, just get into the habit. By exercising in small doses, a person gets a lot of exercise without becoming exhausted. Exercises such as yoga or tai chi stimulate the body gently and can be done by almost anyone, regardless of their physical condition. As you are able to take on more, if you're ready for a change, choose the exercise you most enjoy. Join an exercise group if that suits you. Exercise on an exercise bicycle, treadmill or elliptical trainer while you watch a movie DVD. [6]

A friend who had a mastectomy about three months after mine and learned about what she should do to help prevent a recurrence told me that she could not believe how good she felt after starting to eat better and taking a daily walk. She now walks in a variety of places, often with a friend, making exercise an enjoyable part of her day. You can do this too. Soon you will enjoy your exercise time so much that you will not want to miss it.


[1] McKeown, Patrick, MA, H Dip. Asthma-Free Naturally. (San Francisco, CA, Conari Press 2008),102-104.
[2] McKeown, 97.
[3] Servan-Schreiber, David, MD, PhD. AntiCancer: A New Way of Life. (New York: Penguin Group, Inc., 2009), 197-198.
[4] Quillin, Patrick, PhD, RD, CNS. Beating Cancer with Nutrition, (Carlsbad, CA,, Nutrition Times Press, 2005), 45.
[5] Servan-Schreiber, 201.
[6] Servan-Schreiber, 202-203.