The benefits of exercise on physical and mental well-being have been extensively studied in clinical trials. Regular exercise has been shown to promote maintenance of healthy weight, prevent loss of bone mineral density, reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension, and improve psychological health.
In individuals at risk for cancer development or with an existing cancer diagnosis, however, the positive effects of regular exercise are even more far-reaching. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers, such as colorectal, breast, endometrial , and mesothelioma .
The mechanisms by which exercise reduces cancer incidence remain unclear. One theory is that regular exercise reduces the production of inflammatory proteins thought to be central in the development of certain types of cancer. In the case of breast cancer, exercise is thought to affect hormonal balance in a way that deters tumor formation. In preventing colon cancer, regular exercise is thought to promote bowel motility, consequently reducing the amount of time the bowel is exposed to potentially carcinogenic substances. Increased physical activity has been shown to reduce colon cancer risk by 30 to 40 percent, particularly in individuals who engage in 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily. In those who have already been diagnosed with colon cancer, individuals who are physically active tend to have reduced recurrence rates. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, with the most pronounced risk reductions occurring in women who engage in 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily. Even in women with an existing breast cancer diagnosis, those who participated in 3 to 5 hours a week of moderate exercise had improved survival rates. Similar reductions have been observed in the incidence of endometrial cancer.
In individuals undergoing cancer treatment, exercise is a good way to combat waning energy levels and improve overall quality of life. Besides the significant reductions in both cancer incidence and recurrence, regular exercise can combat many of the negative consequences of undergoing cancer treatment, such as weight gain and poor body image. Chemotherapeutic agents can be toxic to both the cardiac and pulmonary systems, potentially reducing exercise tolerance and overall energy levels. These effects can be partially mitigated by vigorous physical activity. Additionally, regular exercise may assist in immune system recovery after undergoing chemotherapy.
Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April. If you would like to contact her she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .