Exercise as a weapon against cancer: 150 minutes a week could double survival chances

cancer exercise t
Credit: Tribune

Evidence is accumulating that exercise improves the wellbeing of these patients by combating the physical and mental deterioration that often occur during anticancer treatments. Most remarkably, we are beginning to understand that exercise can directly or indirectly fight the cancer itself.

For example, a 2016 study of more than 1.4 million individuals in the US and Europe found that people could reduce their cancer risk with moderate to vigorous leisure-time exercise training. The phenomenon held across several different cancers, including breast, colon, rectum, esophagus, lung, liver, kidney, bladder, and head and neck.

And the combined results of approximately 700 unique exercise intervention trials, involving more than 50,000 cancer patients in total, leave little doubt that patients benefit from physical activity, showing improvements such as reduced toxicity of anticancer treatment, decreased disease progression, and enhanced survival. The same studies showed that exercise training improves mood, decreases loss of muscle mass, and helps cancer patients return to work earlier after successful treatment. Some studies show that 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise nearly double the chance of survival.

Related article:  'Headed down the wrong road': The quest for precision medicine distracts us from what already works

While much remains to be learned about how physical exercise influences cancer, evidence shows that exercise training is safe and feasible for patients with the disease and contributes to their physical and psychosocial health.

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