The anticancer benefits of physical activity

The anticancer benefits of physical activity

We’ve long known that regular physical activity lowers your risks of numerous types of cancer. But what about during and after your cancer treatment? The world’s leading cancer researchers say that exercise is a “super weapon” when you’re undergoing treatment.

Your exercise prescription before cancer treatment

A growing number of oncologists are now prescribing physical activity as soon as there’s a cancer diagnosis. That’s because regular exercise—both strength training and cardio—can help to proactively counter the many side effects of cancer treatment.

For example, chemotherapy and radiation often cause weaker, more brittle bones. Weight-bearing movements, such as lifting weights or going for a run, are some of the best ways to enhance bone health. Other common cancer treatment side effects that exercise helps with include

  • loss of muscle mass
  • loss of muscle strength and endurance
  • weight management
  • low energy

Regular physical activity also helps improve conditions that are linked with the actual development and progression of the disease. Examples include

  • strengthening your immune system
  • minimizing chronic inflammation
  • reducing your exposure to some carcinogens by improving your body’s natural detox and digestive processes
  • lowering growth factors, which are substances that regulate cell division and may be linked to cancer spreading

Exercise during your cancer treatment

“Exercise helped me with chemotherapy,” says cancer survivor Ginny Dent Brant. “I made it a goal to walk 1 to 2 miles [1.5 to 3 km] before and after each infusion.”

Brant’s oncologist recommended exercise as a way to stimulate her immune system’s lymphatic system. But physical activity doesn’t just help reduce treatment side effects. It can actually be a powerful way to fight the disease itself.

To deliver the cancer treatment drugs to the tumor or cancerous cells, you need healthy blood flow. Doctors now believe that exercise may be the best way to boost blood flow and destroy cancer cells more effectively. The American Society of Clinical Oncology even notes that cancer patients who exercise while getting treatment tend not to need to be in the hospital for as long.

It’s not just about your physical symptoms. A cancer diagnosis can have a severe impact on your mental health, with many patients experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve mental health, boost your mood, and enhance your general quality of life.

Exercise for survivors—after cancer

Cancer can have long-lasting effects on everything from your sleep to your energy levels. Exercise may help you address these changes and restore your quality of life faster. Physical activity has also been linked to lower rates of the cancer recurring or spreading.

Talk to your doctor before working out to ensure your exercise regimen is compatible with your cancer diagnosis and your treatment. Then, ease into it—if you’ve never exercised before, try starting with 10-minute intervals of physical activity—and work your way up.

By Joshua Duvauchelle

BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or are planning on having surgery.

Article copyright 2023 by Alive Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo by cottonbro studio:

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