Exercise and the “Big C”


The road to longevity moves along our strife for good health. Logically, the human body has been created to be agile and mobile. For this reason, our maker has employed some 200 bones and 600 plus muscles connected by a complex webbing of other anatomical components such as ligaments, cartilage, tendons, sinews etc. We are undeniably a “machine” of flesh and blood that has been made to move.

A sedentary lifestyle is one that’s deprived of even the minimal required exercise. In other words, it has very low physical activity. That’s of course unhealthy. On the other hand, it has been repeatedly attested that exercise do help to ward off sickness and prolong one’s life. Numerous leading institutions of learning have researched and concluded that exercise is the key to good health. But the question is whether regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of getting one of the commonest causes of death - cancer.

The National Cancer Institute in the United States has funded studies and research establishing the link of exercise to the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors. A number of these study and probe physical activity in relationship to cancer risk. Their brainchild, TREC or Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer links four research centers probing exercise and energy balance influence on the process of carcinogens and modification to the risk of cancer.

In colon (Colorectal) cancer alone, more than 50 studies have been undertaken on the association of exercise and cancer risks. It has been found that those who exercise adequately can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer by as much as 30 to 40% as against those with sedentary lifestyle. This is attributed to energy balance, hormone metabolism and insulin regulation achieved via exercise; and which also alter the number of inflammatory and immune factors.

Correspondingly, more than 60 studies across the world have been published with regard to exercise and reducing breast cancer risks. For both premenopausal and postmenopausal ladies, reduction the results varied widely from 20% to 80%. Nevertheless, all the studies concurred that exercise can reduce breast cancer risks. Effects also vary with BMI (body mass) where normal weight showed the best results. Many of the studies also suggest 30-60 minutes of exercise per day consisting of moderate to high intensity can yield traceably good results. Exercise may help to prevent tumor development by lowering hormone level, levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1. This is scientifically known as IGF-I. It also improves immune response and weight maintenance. 

With endometrial (uterus) cancer, about 20 studies have been carried out. For those with adequate exercise, the risk reduction is 20-40%. Figuratively, this can be equated in “saving” 2 to 4 out of 10 people. Also discovered is risk does not vary with age. This is thought to be attributed to changes in body mass and levels of metabolism of hormones such as estrogen.

In the research of exercise’s association with lung cancer, some 21 studies have been conducted. In a crux, what the findings show is that physically active individuals have a 20% reduction in risk. However, the findings were less clear for women. In the case with prostate cancer, 36 studies were taken into account but they were less consistent in their findings. Nevertheless, it’s possible that men who exercise may have reduced chances or delaying the onset of prostate cancer. This may be attributed to energy balance, IGF, immunity, changes in hormone and antioxidant defense mechanism.

Exercise also affects cancer survivorship. In the studies, it has been noted that physical activity after diagnosis of breast cancer improves the quality of life and reduces fatigue. One study revealed that women who exercised moderately or of an equivalent of 3-5 hours of moderate paced walk in a week, had higher survival rates than women with sedentary lifestyle. Exercise may influence insulin and leptin levels which in turn influence breast cancer prognosis.

In two observational studies, exercise does yield benefits toward colon cancer diagnosis and survival. It was found that those with higher levels of fitness programs are less likely to experience recurrence and had increased survival.

So keep up with exercise as good health is the road to longevity!