We now know that exercise plays a beneficial role in not only the prevention of cancer, but also increasing the effectiveness of traditional cancer treatments, even killing cancer cells in patients suffering from a range of cancers.
Whether you have cancer or are just trying to maintain a good level of general health, exercise is a great way to destress and get endorphins, the feel-good hormone flowing. However, too much exercise can create unnecessary stress on your body and can hinder your recovery. If you are currently battling cancer, try keep your exercise levels to no more than 60 minutes per day.
There are many reasons why regular exercise can help benefit people with cancer, however the main ones are:
• Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight
• Increases the production of “Natural Killer Cells” which attack cancer cells
• Strengthens our immune system
• Increases cardiovascular fitness and blood circulation
• Boost the quality of life of people undergoing traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy
• Increases the effectiveness of traditional treatments
When we exercise, our heart starts to pump faster to help circulate oxygenated blood around our body.
Our heart is just like any other muscle, the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. When we regularly engage in exercise which elevates our heart rate, over time, the walls of our heart start to thicken. The stronger and thicker the walls become, the more blood the heart can push around our body with one single pump. Therefore, when we are not exercising, our resting heart rate is reduced. This is due to our heart not having to work as hard as it previously had to, to circulate the same amount of oxygenated blood.
For example, if your resting heart rate was 75 beats per minute and you were to exercise regularly and reduce body fat, you could likely reduce your resting heart rate to 65 beats per minute in just a few short months. A 10 beat per minute reduction doesn’t sound like much to celebrate, but that 10 beats less per minute equates to 14,400 less beats per day and 5,256,000 less beats in just one year!
Your heart is just like an engine. The less it has to work, the longer it will last. Save your heart having to contract five million times per year, and not only will it last longer, but you will be fitter, allowing you to enjoy those extra years of life in good health.
That’s all good and well, but how does that relate to someone with; or someone trying to prevent cancer?
When we engage in exercise that raises our heart rate, our immune system is kicked into gear and our body starts to release adrenaline. Adrenaline activates the release of what’s called “Natural Killer Cells”. Our muscles then release interleukin 6 which tells the natural killer cells to seek out and destroy cancer cells and supress the growth of new rogue cells.
Regardless of whether you have cancer or not, your body is always creating potentially cancerous cells, however your immune system usually neutralises the threat before it has the chance to become one. If rogue cells have already become cancerous, you can increase the production of the natural killer cells by exercising.
Chemotherapy is designed to destroy cancerous cells, however it also destroys healthy cells and compromises your immune system in the process. When making the decision to accept chemotherapy, you really need to weigh up the benefits versus the risks. If you are already undergoing chemotherapy, there has been some recent research which has shown that the effectiveness of the drug can be significantly increased by exercising immediately before or after each treatment.
Cancer tumours have a very poor blood supply, however when we exercise, blood circulation is increased making is much easier for the drug to penetrate the tumour, increasing the drug’s effectiveness. In addition to this, the negative effects on our immune system created by the chemotherapy can be reduced by the immune boosting effects of exercise.
A study in men who had blood samples taken prior to and after 60 minutes of vigorous cycling, found that the serum taken from the blood after exercise, when added to active cancer cells in a petri dish, suppressed the cancer cell growth by 31%. For more info on this study and others, we recommend watching this short TV program which you can view by clicking HERE.
Another study in mice with lung cancer, took two groups and in one group, placed exercise wheels in their enclosures and in the other group, provided no means of exercising. In the group which regularly exercised on the wheel, the tumours had reduced by 60-70% whereas the other group was unchanged or worse.
If you are undergoing chemotherapy, exercise is probably the last thing you feel like doing before or after a treatment. However, the benefits are so significant, it would be remiss of us not to strongly suggest it. Some studies have shown that the survival rate of cancer patients can be increased by up to 50%, just by doing 30 minutes of exercise before or after treatments.
Patients reported experiencing less nausea and reduced side effects of chemo as well as having more energy. Again, we suggest watching the program linked above which explains these studies in more detail.
An Australian study in men over the age of 70 with prostate cancer found that when they undergo chemotherapy, they become osteoarthritic and their bone density decreases. However, in a test group who did resistance training, including impact training such as jumping movements throughout treatment, they managed to maintain their bone density.
It is common for muscle mass to be reduced by around 15% during chemo or radiation treatments, however in a study conducted by the same group of doctors with 35 men and women who were exercising throughout treatment, they all maintained and some even gained muscle mass.
Exercise will help you not only recover faster, but it can also help ensure you maintain muscles mass, bone density and a good level of fitness so you can come out the other side of your recovery in good shape. This will help minimise your rehab needs and speed up your ability to getting back to enjoying a happy healthy life much faster.
These are just a few reasons why we strongly recommend maintaining some level of exercise if you are trying to prevent or recover from cancer.
If you would like a workout program you can do from home and track your progress, click HERE to purchase one for just $4.99.