Can Exercise Save You From Cancer?

Exercise has multiple benefits for many different people with various health conditions. One particular health condition that exercise can help is cancer.  Exercise can assist with both preventing the onset of cancer as well as improving function during cancer treatment.

Research has shown that the incidence of cancer is reduced in those who are more physically active.  In other words, if you remain physically active throughout your life, you will be less likely to acquire cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults perform moderate-intensity activity at least 30 minutes a day for 5+ days a week, or vigorous-intensity activity at least 20 minutes a day for 3+ days a week.

Once cancer is diagnosed, exercise can also be beneficial. There is no evidence to suggest that exercise can cure the disease; however, it can assist with physical function and quality of life. Reduced activity can result in loss of body function, muscle weakness, and decreased range of motion. Staying physically active can prevent these issues as well as other negative effects from secondary conditions including osteoporosis and heart disease.  Exercise can also assist in reducing the effects of anticancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.  Overall, quality of life is improved with the integration of regular physical activity during cancer recovery.  Suggested activity level may vary depending on the form or stage of cancer, therefore, discussing this issue with your doctor is important.

Evidence has also been found to suggest that exercise can reduce the recurrence of cancer. Various studies on patients with breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer suggest that cancer survivors who are physically active reduce their risk of cancer recurrence and improve overall survival as compared to those who are inactive. The suggested intensity of exercise is different depending on which form of cancer was present previously.  For example, decreasing the risk of death from breast cancer can be accomplished with walking 3 hours per week, but decreased death risk for colon cancer takes 6 hours of walking per week.  Similarly, some cancer risk does not change depending on the intensity of exercise, but prostate cancer survival is improved with more vigorous exercise rather than walking.

Ultimately, the rate of death in individuals with cancer is decreased and longevity is improved by the use of regular physical activity.  Certain exercise precautions do exist for those who have or have had cancer.  The American Cancer Society provides a good list of these precautions as well as ways to remain physically active here. A physical therapist, in conjunction with your doctor, can help to develop a good exercise routine that is appropriate for you so don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or physical therapist to set up a program.

We hope that this blog was informative. If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.



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