We all know the importance of moderate, but regular, physical activity. Some form of physical activity is very important for our health. However, what many people don’t know is that exercise is also important for preventing many types of cancer. Exercise not only strengthens your immune system but also helps boost the overall quality of life. But how can exercise have an effect on cancer? Read on to find out more about can vigorous exercise reduce the risk of cancer?
Exercise and Cancer: Can Vigorous Exercise Reduce The Risk Of Cancer?
Exercise is essential for all aspects of your health. In fact, exercise is even more important when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer. It can also enhance your quality of life while you are undergoing cancer treatment. According to new research by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, exercise can reduce the risk of 13 types of cancer.
Three separate papers have been written by various experts recently, and they released guidelines that recommend regular exercise for people who are undergoing cancer treatment, and also for preventing cancer.
The teams of experts recommended doing at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, three times a week and doing strength training two to three times a week. The findings supported that regular exercise can prevent cancer as it helps reduce inflammation, keeps a person’s weight under check, and also boosts the immune system.(1,2,3)
These findings also recommend that doctors should now actively ‘prescribe’ exercise in an effort to lower the risk of certain cancers. It is believed that this would also improve the outcome of cancer treatment as well as improve the quality of life of people with cancer.
The study comprised of experts from the American College of Sports Medicine, the Penn State University, the American Cancer Society, and many others.
The research recommends that exercise can help in the prevention of a variety of cancers, including:
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Colon cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Esophagus cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Uterine cancer
At the same time, the research also recommends that exercise can help improve the survival rates for people with prostate, breast, and colon cancer. At the same time, exercise can enhance the quality of life of cancer patients by reducing the side effects of their cancer treatment.
How Much Exercise is Needed?
The recommendations of the research team were that people who have cancer should be doing at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least three times a week, along with strength training at least two to three times a week.
According to the US Department of Health Human Services, when it comes to cancer prevention, the recommended guidelines for physical activity are at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, or 150 minutes of moderate exercising in a week.(4)
Importance of Exercise in Reducing Cancer Risk
It is believed that exercise is particularly beneficial in cancer prevention because of its effect on reducing inflammation in the body, helping regulate the sex hormones and blood sugar levels, and enhancing the immune function and metabolism of the body.
Of course, this also depends on what type of cancer a person has, and based on the specific cancer type, one or more benefits of exercise prove to be more important than the others in reducing the overall risk. For example, in people with breast cancer, the beneficial effect of exercise on sex hormones is believed to be how exercising helps reduce the risk of breast cancer.(5,6)
According to guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, exercise is believed to have a huge impact on reducing the risk of cancer development as it helps decrease obesity. Obesity is a known risk factor for many cancers.(5)
However, more research is still needed to find out the exact reasons how and why exercise affects certain cancers in different ways.
- Schmitz, K.H., Campbell, A.M., Stuiver, M.M., Pinto, B.M., Schwartz, A.L., Morris, G.S., Ligibel, J.A., Cheville, A., Galvão, D.A., Alfano, C.M. and Patel, A.V., 2019. Exercise is medicine in oncology: engaging clinicians to help patients move through cancer. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 69(6), pp.468-484.
- Patel, A.V., Friedenreich, C.M., Moore, S.C., Hayes, S.C., Silver, J.K., Campbell, K.L., Winters-Stone, K., Gerber, L.H., George, S.M., Fulton, J.E. and Denlinger, C., 2019. American College of Sports Medicine roundtable report on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and cancer prevention and control. Medicine Science in Sports Exercise, 51(11), pp.2391-2402.
- Campbell, K.L., Winters-Stone, K.M., Wiskemann, J., May, A.M., Schwartz, A.L., Courneya, K.S., Zucker, D.S., Matthews, C.E., Ligibel, J.A., Gerber, L.H. and Morris, G.S., 2019. Exercise guidelines for cancer survivors: consensus statement from international multidisciplinary roundtable. Medicine Science in Sports Exercise, 51(11), pp.2375-2390.
- HHS.gov. 2020. Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans. [online] Available at: <https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html> [Accessed 13 April 2020].
- Bernstein, L., Henderson, B.E., Hanisch, R., Sullivan-Halley, J. and Ross, R.K., 1994. Physical exercise and reduced risk of breast cancer in young women. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 86(18), pp.1403-1408.
- McNeely, M.L., Campbell, K.L., Rowe, B.H., Klassen, T.P., Mackey, J.R. and Courneya, K.S., 2006. Effects of exercise on breast cancer patients and survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cmaj, 175(1), pp.34-41.
- Nccn.org. 2020. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines In Oncology. [online] Available at: <https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/default.aspx> [Accessed 13 April 2020].