Physical exercise fights cancer, risk of relapse and associated mortality

Regular physical exercise is essential for the prevention and treatment of several types of cancer.

In addition to improving physical fitness and cardiovascular health, regular exercise is one of the most important lifestyle parameters for

cancer prevention. Being physically active is not just about moving muscles: it is also an action that induces a series of biochemical and physiological changes capable of creating an inhospitable climate for cancer cells and interfering with their progression into advanced cancer. .

For example, physical activity reduces chronic inflammation inside the body and thereby deprives immature cancer cells of an essential tool for their growth. The muscles of active people also take up blood sugar much better in response to insulin, which allows the pancreas to secrete lower amounts of this hormone and thus reduce its harmful effects on the growth of cancer cells.

Also, the positive impact of regular physical activity on body weight control should certainly not be overlooked: active people are generally thinner than those who are sedentary, which reduces the risk of several cancers associated with excess weight. All these factors make physical activity an essential ingredient in cancer prevention, the potential of which remains largely untapped in industrialized societies, where the majority of people are physically inactive.

2 hours of moderate physical activity per week

In addition to playing an important role in preventing cancer (primary prevention), a large number of studies show that cancer survivors who are the most physically active also live the longest (secondary prevention). As a result, several organizations (American Cancer Society, World Cancer Research Fund, American College of Sports Medicine) recommend that people affected by cancer do at least 10 metabolic equivalents (10 METs) per week, which corresponds to 2.5 hours moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, to reduce the risk of death.

Colorectal, breast, prostate, ovarian and lung cancer: physical activity reduces recurrences and mortality

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A review of the literature on the subject makes it possible to clearly visualize the extremely positive impact of regular exercise on several types of cancer, both in primary and secondary prevention. For example, physical activity reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by about 25% and the risk of death from this disease by about 20%. The same goes for breast cancer, with a reduction in risk of approximately 25-30% in the most active women and a reduction of approximately 40% in mortality following diagnosis. An increase in the survival of survivors of cancers of the prostate, ovaries (in non-obese women), lung and brain through physical activity has also been observed.

There is therefore no doubt that regular physical activity plays an essential role in both prevention and treatment of cancer.

Lugo D et al. The effects of physical activity on cancer prevention, treatment and prognosis: A review of the literature. Complement. Ther. Med. 2019; 44:9-13.


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