While an apple a day can keep the doctor away, VILPA, acronym for Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity for a few minutes a day can probably keep cancer at bay. Yes! Several studies have explored the potential correlation between VILPA and cancer risk. It is not always that cancer is linked ONLY to smoking or alcohol or exposure to chemicals/Carcinogens. Even lack of physical activity arising from over-weight, obesity is also linked to Cancer.
Recent research called The UK Biobank Accelerometry, based on the analysis of 22,000 adults aged around 62, found that people who engaged in vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity or VILPA for just a few minutes a day had a lower risk of cancer than those who did not engage in it. Another research found that 3.4 minutes of VILPA per day can lower the risk of cancer by 17%; whereas 3.6 minutes of VILPA daily can lower the risk of physical-activity related cancer by 18%.
Cancer is a complex and multifactorial disease influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Physical activity has been extensively studied as a potential modifiable risk factor for cancer development and progression. VILPA refers to activities that involve bursts of high-intensity exercises interspersed with periods of rest or lower intensity activities. These activities have been associated with lower levels of inflammation, improved immune function, and positive alterations in various cancer-related biomarkers. One of the primary mechanisms by which VILPA reduces the incidence of cancer is by regulating hormonal balance. Regular exercise has been shown to influence hormone levels, such as estrogen and insulin, which are known to be involved in the growth and development of certain types of cancer cells. By promoting a more balanced hormonal environment, VILPA can help prevent the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. Another important benefit of VILPA is its role in maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity is a significant risk factor for various types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer. By engaging in regular high-intensity physical activity, individuals can manage their weight more effectively, reducing their risk of cancer.
Exercises which qualify as VILPA:
Here are some exercises that qualify as VILPA; High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercises that involvealternating between short bursts of intense exercise and brief recovery periods. This type of workout can include activities like, sprinting, jumping jacks, push-ups, lunges, planks, squat jumps, bicycle, crunches, burpees, boxing, kickboxing, cross fit or bodyweight exercises performed at maximum effort with short breaks in between. If you don’t intend to hit the gym then practice at home some dancing, an excellent way to engage in vigorous intermittent activity, jumping rope is a fantastic full-body workout that can be done in a small space. If you have stairs at home, take advantage of them for intense bursts of activity. Run up and down the stairs, aiming to elevate your heart rate quickly. Take short breaks between sets to recover before repeating. Remember to warm up before any vigorous intermittent activity and cool down afterward to prevent injuries and promote muscle recovery. It's also crucial to listen to your body and modify or decrease the intensity as needed.
Significance of physical activities
Additionally, it is important to consider that physical activity should be part of a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention, which includes other lifestyle factors such as a balanced diet, avoidance of smoking, and limited alcohol consumption. In conclusion, while there is some evidence suggesting a potential correlation between VILPA and a reduced risk of certain cancers, more research is needed to fully understand this relationship. Nevertheless, engaging in regular physical activity, including VILPA, can contribute to overall health and is associated with numerous benefits. Consultation with a healthcare professional is advised to determine the most appropriate exercise regimen for individual health goals and needs.
In summation, while one should always target the right exercise and duration, remember - some sort of physical activity is still better than no physical activity at all.
(The writer is Dr. Devavrat Arya, Medical Oncologist, Director, Cancer Care/Oncology, Max Hospital, Saket, New Delhi.)