Exercise is Critical for Cancer Prevention and Treatment

December 25, 2019

A man is enjoying exercise
JayDee Huppert

When you think of cancer prevention and treatment, exercise might now be one of the possibilities that come to mind.  However, it should be! It is now well established that exercise provides significant benefits for dealing with cancer.  Just like exercise is now an ordinary part of treatment for heart disease, exercise is now becoming a standardized recommendation for both cancer prevention and treatment.  

Why exercise is important when it comes to cancer

Physical inactivity is a big risk factor for cancer.  Lack of exercise can lead to problems with obesity, low metabolism, and poor hormone balance- all linked to an increase risk of cancer.  Additionally these issues influence development of most chronic health issues.  This can overwhelm the body’s ability to function and make cancer more likely to develop.  

Exercise for cancer prevention

Cancer is a growing problem throughout the world.  Men have about a 22% and women have an 18% risk of cancer over their lifetime.  Luckily, treatment options are significantly improving survival rates and remission.  However, prevention is always the best option when possible.  

The benefits of exercise for cancer prevention

  • Boosts the immune system
  • Better weight and blood sugar management
  • Reduces inflammation throughout the body
  • Better balanced hormones (particularly sex hormones, most often linked to cancer)
  • Overall decreased risk of of bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and uterine cancer

Exercise for cancer treatment

When cancer is malignant, common treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, and lifestyle changes.  These treatments can affect the ability to fully participate in normal daily activities. 

The benefits of exercise for cancer treatment

  • Increase energy  levels throughout cancer treatment
  • Reduce levels of fatigue associated with active cancer treatment
  • Maximize cellular function to fight cancerous cells and promote healing
  • Decrease recovery time needed after treatment
  • Reduction of side effects from cancer treatment
  • Improved quality of life and overall treatment outcomes
  • Improved survival rates for colon, breast, and prostate cancer

How to exercise for cancer prevention and treatment

What you need to maximize your health depends on many factors, including your current health and fitness state.  Talk to a health care professional for specific recommendations.  The key is to listen to your body and give it what it needs to thrive through exercise.  In general, the more exercise the better.  However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t exhaust yourself either.  Especially if you’re new to exercise, start slow and progress as you can tolerate.

Here are some great starting guidelines

  • 3-5 times per week, 30 minutes per session
  • Strength training 2-3 times per week, addressing large muscle groups throughout the body
  • For active cancer treatment, schedule exercise on the days that you tend to have a little more energy and a less busy schedule.  Otherwise, simply modify your exercise routine on particularly trying days.
  • Just get moving! There is no one way that you have to exercise.  Choose what you enjoy and is convenient for you.

Exercise should be the norm for cancer treatment

No matter who you are, it’s no secret that exercise is a normal part of a healthy routine.  Nowadays, cancer treatment and prevention should be naturally associated with exercise.  Luckily, this association is becoming more common place.  However, this knowledge is still a work in progress for becoming a worldwide norm.  Now that you know just how important exercise is for cancer treatment and prevention, use it as motivation to get that heart rate up and blood moving as often as possible.

Just in case you needed yet another reason to exercise, the benefits it provides in relation to cancer should suffice! 

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