Week of October 1, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I really want to walk more and know I should, but I’m having trouble making it a consistent habit. What do you suggest?

A: Bravo! Regular walking will help you control or reduce risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all while improving your energy and mood. So first, focus on the benefit you expect to get from walking more. Second, think about how you can make time to walk – planning ahead is key. For many people, getting in a walk or other exercise first thing in the morning is the best guarantee that it won’t get swept away by other activities of the day. However, if there is something particular in your day that you can link to walking, that might be a key to success for you. For example, if you regularly take your child to and from a sports practice or other activity, you could designate the time in between for your walking. Keep a record, hour-by-hour, of how you spend your time for three to five typical days. Look for something you do that you could combine with a walk. Consider ways you might use your relaxation time to be more active. For example, choose the half-hour TV show you enjoy least and designate that your walking time. Another strategy is to have a specific weekly goal of minutes or pedometer-tracked steps. Perhaps you and a friend or family member who also wants to start walking could check in with each other weekly to cheer one another. You can also turn walking into a chance to do good: volunteer with your local humane society as a weekly dog-walker, or set a regular time to give a family member or neighbor a respite as you take their baby for a walk.

Q: Type 2 diabetes runs in my family, what can I do to avoid getting it?

A: People with a family history of type 2 diabetes do have greater odds of developing the disease, but research is clear that a healthy lifestyle can substantially cut risk, or at least help people live more years without diabetes. One of the most important steps for preventing type 2 diabetes is to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Excess body fat around your waist seems particularly linked with increased risk, even if you are not extremely overweight. Even modest weight loss reduces risk if you are overweight now. Type 2 diabetes stems from insulin resistance which is the body’s inability to use insulin effectively, despite producing plenty of it. Regardless of your weight, do enough physical activity so it adds up to 30 to 60 minutes daily. Daily physical activity seems to directly reduce insulin resistance in addition to reducing or preventing weight gain. Tobacco avoidance and healthy food choices also probably help: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dried beans contain antioxidants that fight inflammation linked to this disease, and provide fiber that may also help reduce risk. Aim for at least two-and-a half cups (preferably three-and-a-half to five cups) of vegetables and fruits daily, and at least three to four servings of whole grains. Limit processed meat and sugar-sweetened drinks, since evidence suggests frequent consumption may increase risk of diabetes. And choose lowfat dairy, fish, poultry and limited lean red meat. All of these recommendations help you stay lean and also decrease risk for other chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Our genes can make us more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes, but the importance of lifestyle choices means there’s no reason to feel doomed.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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