Exercise for Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Recent research has found that exercise and physical activity can help prevent some cancers and help some cancer survivors live longer. The information was released in a report, Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors. The panel of researchers found that cancer related symptoms may be affected by performing moderate aerobic exercise, resistance training or both.

The evidence based recommendations include:

  • Exercise, for all adults, is important for cancer prevention. It lowers the risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus, and stomach. 
  • Exercising after being diagnosed with breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer may help reduce the chance of recurrence and improve survival.
  • Exercise during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, and quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema. 

Other findings include:

  • When it comes to prevention, higher levels of physical activity are linked with lower risks. 
  • Decreasing the amount of time spent sitting may help lower the risk of colorectal, endometrial, and lung cancers.
  • Sun safety is recommended for people who have or have had cancer when they exercise outdoors, because in addition to people who’ve had melanoma, survivors of some other types of cancer may have an increased risk for developing skin cancer.

Alpa Patel, PhD, senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society, shared that, “Throughout the world, 1 of 4 adults is physically inactive, increasing their risk of developing cancer or making it worse. Being physically active is one of the most helpful steps people of all ages and abilities can take to protect themselves from cancer. We need fitness and public health professionals and healthcare providers in every country to spread this message.”

Before being diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016, I led an active lifestyle exercising an average of 5 days a week including running, swimming, cycling, and etc. Throughout my treatment regimen, I continued to be active. Of course the level of intensity and quality of the workouts diminished but I kept moving. Maintaining an exercise routine was good for my body and mind. It also was beneficial to have support from friends and family who exercised with me on many occasions. 

If a patient is inactive they may not heal as quickly and may feel worse than if they got up and moved around. It can be difficult, especially when you are fatigued, but it is better for physical and emotional health.

After completing chemotherapy and radiation, I gradually increased physical activity until I was at the level I had been before the diagnosis. I share this as an example of a personal account that illustrates the ability to exercise during and after cancer and the benefits it may have for patients. 

To enjoy an improved quality of life consider implementing, or maintaining, a regular exercise regimen, consuming more whole plant-based foods, taking time for fun, relieving stress and anxiety, and using chemical free home and personal care products. It could result in increased energy and a better physical and emotional you!


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