Exercise Adds Years to your Life and Reduces Cancer Risks
Yes, even a modest amount of exercise has been shown to add years to your lifespan. A study published just last month in The Lancet found that a mere 15 minutes of exercise a day can increase your lifespan by three years! Those who got themselves moving for at least 15 minutes a day, or 90 minutes a week, also had a 14 percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality. Furthermore:
“Every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the minimum amount of 15 minutes a day further reduced all-cause mortality by 4 percent, and all-cancer mortality by 1 percent. These benefits were applicable to all age groups and both sexes, and to those with cardiovascular disease risks. Individuals who were inactive had a 17 percent increased risk of mortality compared with individuals in the low-volume group.”
Exercise is known to be effective in the prevention of disease of all kinds, including cancer, which, naturally, will allow you to live longer. But exercise may also be imperative in the treatment of serious diseases such as cancer. In fact, a new report issued by Macmillan Cancer Support argues that exercise should be part of standard cancer care. It recommends that all patients getting cancer treatment should be told to engage in moderate-intensity exercise for two and a half hours every week, stating that the advice to rest and take it easy after treatment is an outdated view.
Research has shown that exercise can:
- Reduce your risk of dying from cancer
- Reduce your risk of cancer recurrence
- Boost energy and minimize the side effects of conventional cancer treatment
“Previous research shows that exercising to the recommended levels can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring by 40 percent. For prostate cancer the risk of dying from the disease is reduced by up to 30 percent. Bowel cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease can be cut by around 50 percent by doing around six hours of moderate physical activity a week.”
Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support is quoted as saying:
“Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the grueling ordeal of treatment all over again. It doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous; doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim, all count.”
Exercise as a Cancer Prevention Tool
This topic is very near and dear to my heart, as I went to graduate school in large part because I wanted to use exercise as a therapeutic tool to help people get healthier. I strongly believe that without fitness, it is virtually impossible to achieve optimal health. Lack of exercise can also severely hamper your recuperative efforts once disease has set in.
A previous study by Harvard Medical School researchers found that breast cancer patients who exercise moderately for three to five hours a week cut their odds of dying from cancer by about half, compared to sedentary patients. In fact, any amount of weekly exercise increased a patient’s odds of surviving breast cancer. This benefit also remained constant regardless of whether women were diagnosed early on or after their cancer had spread.
One of the primary reasons exercise works to lower your cancer risk is because it drives your insulin levels down, and controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks. It’s also been suggested that apoptosis (programmed cell death) is triggered by exercise, causing cancer cells to die.
Exercise also helps lower your estrogen levels, which explains why exercise appears to be particularly potent against breast cancer. And if you’re male, be aware that athletes have lower levels of circulating testosterone than non-athletes, and similar to the association between estrogen levels and breast cancer in women, testosterone is known to influence the development of prostate cancer in men.
Then of course, exercise also improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood, whose job it is to neutralize pathogens throughout your body. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and defending against viruses and diseases, including cancer, trying to attack your body.
Exercise Tips for Cancer Patients
Now, if you have cancer or any other chronic disease, you will of course need to tailor your exercise routine to your individual scenario, taking into account your stamina and current health. Often, you will be able to take part in a regular exercise program — one that involves a variety of exercises like strength training, core-building, stretching, aerobic and anaerobic — with very little changes necessary. However, at times you may find you need to exercise at a lower intensity, or for shorter durations.
Always listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest. But even exercising for just a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all, and you’ll likely find that your stamina increases and you’re able to complete more challenging workouts with each passing day.
In the event you are suffering from a very weakened immune system, you may want to exercise in your home instead of visiting a public gym. But remember that exercise will ultimately help to boost your immune system, so it’s very important to continue with your program, even if you suffer from chronic illness or cancer.