It’s no surprise that being physically fit helps protect against heart disease, but a person’s level of fitness might also have a profound effect on cancer outcomes long before a diagnosis. According to a new study in JAMA Oncology, men who were very fit in middle age were 32% less likely to die from cancer after being diagnosed after age 65 than men who weren’t fit in midlife.
“It’s pretty remarkable that a fitness estimate 10-15 years before your actual cancer diagnosis can predict how long you’re going to live after you develop cancer,” says Dr. Susan Lakoski, one of the study’s authors and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Vermont, Burlington.
The protective benefits of exercise didn’t stop there. Of the men who eventually were diagnosed with lung, prostate and colorectal cancer by age 65 or older, being very fit in midlife was associated with a 32% reduced risk of cancer-related death and a 68% lower risk of cardiovascular death compared to men who had low fitness in midlife.