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How Physical Fitness Can Protect You Against Cancer

The Big C, the dreaded word.

If you are part of the majority who are conscious of slashing your risk for cancer, you haven’t probably put physical fitness as part of your daily regimen. However, researches proved there is convincing proof that exercise is not only limited to getting your body toned and healthy, it also helps reduce cancer risk as well as preventing recurrence for cancer patients.

Regular exercise, studies have found out helps cancer patients recuperate faster and minimize the harmful effects of conventional treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy.

The reason – regular exercise boosts your immune system to protect the body against future cancers.

Turning the cancer surveillance switch on

In 2012, the Integrative biology of Exercise gathered sixteen cancer survivors to participate in a three-month long clinical study. These sixteen cancer patients just completed their chemotherapy treatments. They were placed in a fitness program, each designed to fit their requirements. The regimen was a combination of:

  • Cardiovascular workout
  • Endurance training
  • Strength training

Exercises on balance, posture and flexibility were also incorporated in the routine. The participants underwent a blood test measuring their T-cells, a type of lymphocyte produced by the body which actively participates in the immune response. After the completion of the program, a large number of these T-cells reconstructed themselves into more effective, stronger cells. Exercise has essentially helped these T-cells to increase their fighting form and resist emerging cancers in the body.

Physical Fitness as a Drug

Apart from reinforcing your body’s immune cells into a better fighting form, another important impact of exercise is regulating insulin levels thereby reducing your susceptibility to cancer. As we know, cancer feeds on unregulated sugar in the body. Exercise discourages high sugar environment and as a result hampering the growth and spread of cancer cells.  An effective exercise regimen also triggers some cancer cells to die in a reaction called apoptosis.

The trick however, is to tailoring the exercise regimen as more of a precision tool, a type of ‘drug’ that needs to be carefully administered to achieve optimum benefit. It has to be nothing too strenuous that would cause tear and injury to the muscles and tendons as well as balancing aerobic and anaerobic routines.

The exercises would need to be done in specific quantities. To do this more effectively, oncologists would need to work with personal trainers and be involved in the prescription of training levels with their patients.

Most of the exercise programs that are popular are the aerobic forms of exercise. Unfortunately, the results of this type of focus may in fact inhibit maximum health benefits. This is why it is important to balance exercise levels that should include core-building routines, stretching and strength training. High-intensity training should also be part of the exercise dosage once or twice a week. The expected effect is raising heart rate up to the ideal anaerobic threshold and maintaining it for 20 to 30 seconds, and giving it 90 seconds to recover.  This should also encourage the body’s natural tendency to manufacture human growth hormones.

The Body of Evidence

The medical community started focusing their studies that proper exercise help prevent cancer in the 1980s. There have been more than 100 studies conducted since then. And the results between physical exercises in relation to cancer prevention were published in a medical journal titled Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. The effects of exercise include changes in:

  • DNA regeneration
  • Antioxidant protection
  • Increased pulmonary capacity
  • Better energy balance
  • Improved cardiovascular performance
  • Improved bowel movement
  • Increased immune system

The evidence supports that when exercise is taken seriously, recovering cancer patients and those currently getting treatment have more to benefit from than just availing of standard or conventional treatment.


thumbnail photo credit: mesothelioma.com