Men with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness appear to have a lower incidence of lung or colon cancer, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Vermont examined cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in 13,949 middle-aged men between 1971 and 2009. CRF of each participant was assessed using an incremental treadmill test starting at a speed of 3.3 mph for 25 minutes, before increasing 0.3 mph per minute until volitional exhaustion.

Three cancer diagnoses - lung, colorectal, and prostate - were evaluated in the present report for men of this sample.

Researchers found that compared to men with lower levels of CRF, those with high levels had a lower risk of developing lung or colon cancer, and if they did, they were less likely to die from it.

“This is important because more and more data is coming out that regular exercise is important to prevent cancer,” said Dr. Dale Shepard, an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic who did not take part in the study.

Since previous research has found sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of cancer, Shepard emphasized the importance of good heart health and recommended eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a normal weight to decrease cancer risk.

“What that means is if you have a job where you sit all day long, we’re finding that even if you exercise for an hour or so afterward, you still have risk,” Shepard said. “So really, you have to think about both things - being active but not being inactive.”

The study was published online in JAMA Oncology.