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Exercise in the fight against cancer

By Matt Wiseman

Cancer is a devastating disease which affects millions of people worldwide. While there are many treatments available, from chemotherapy to surgery, there's one tool that's often overlooked in the fight against cancer: exercise. In recent years, researchers have been exploring the connection between physical activity and cancer, and the results are promising. In this blog post, we'll be exploring how exercise is being used to fight cancer and sharing some tips for incorporating physical activity into your cancer treatment plan.

First and foremost, it's important to understand why exercise is so effective at fighting cancer. One reason is that physical activity helps to boost the immune system. When you exercise, your body produces more immune cells, such as T-cells and natural killer cells, which can help to identify and destroy cancer cells. Additionally, exercise can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a major contributor to the development and spread of cancer. But that's not all. Exercise can also have a positive impact on mental health, which is crucial for cancer patients who may be dealing with anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that can help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

So, how much exercise do you need to reap these benefits? According to the American Cancer Society, cancer patients should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. This can include activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, or strength training. Of course, it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, as some cancer treatments may limit your ability to engage in physical activity. In the end, your treatment (chemo/radiography/etc) is your number one priority!! Your goal should be to do as much exercise as you can handle through treatment.

In addition to the physical and mental benefits, exercise can also improve overall treatment outcomes for cancer patients. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that breast cancer patients who engaged in regular exercise had a lower risk of recurrence and a higher overall survival rate compared to those who didn't exercise. Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce the side effects of cancer treatments such as fatigue, nausea, and pain.

If you're a cancer patient or survivor looking to incorporate exercise into your treatment plan, there are plenty of options available. Many hospitals and cancer centers offer exercise programs specifically designed for cancer patients, which can provide a supportive environment and specialized guidance. Alternatively, you could work with a personal trainer/fitness professional who has experience working with cancer patients, or simply start by incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine, such as taking a daily walk or doing some light stretching.

In conclusion, exercise is a powerful tool in the fight against cancer. By boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, improving mental health, and enhancing overall treatment outcomes, physical activity can help cancer patients to not only survive but thrive. If you're a cancer patient or survivor, talk to your doctor about incorporating exercise into your treatment plan, and don't be afraid to reach out to your local gym or fitness center for support and guidance. Together, we can continue to fight cancer and improve the lives of those affected by this devastating disease.

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Courneya, K. S. (2003). Exercise in cancer survivors: an overview of research. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 35(11), 1846-1852.

Dimeo, F. C. (2001). Effects of exercise on cancer-related fatigue. Cancer, 92(S6), 1689-1693.<1689::AID-CNCR1498>3.0.CO;2-H

Rock, C. L., Thomson, C., Gansler, T., Gapstur, S. M., McCullough, M. L., Patel, A. V., Andrews, K. S., Bandera, E. V., Spees, C. K., & Robien, K. (2020). American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 70(4), 245-271.



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