The Key to Cancer: Exercise

Scottish playwright James Thomson once professed that “health is the vital principle of bliss, and exercise, of health”.  Thomson’s quote emphasizes the importance of exercise in maintaining a healthy and enjoyable life. While exercise and fitness are essential to a hearty lifestyle, it is even more so to cancer patients. Mounting evidence continues to show that exercise is not only a key component in successful cancer prevention and treatment, but also in preventing cancer recurrence.

For instance, the International Liver Congress conducted a research study wherein mice that exercised for an hour everyday were compared to sedentary mice. Both groups were fed a high fat diet. The results proved that only 70% of the exercising mice developed large tumors whereas 100% of the sedentary mice developed significant tumors, larger than 10 mm. This research played a pivotal role in defining exercise as a crucial part of assisting cancer prevention.

While exercise plays an important role in preventing cancer from arising, it is also a very effective way of coping with cancer and making the treatment a less burdensome process. Engaging in regular exercise increases joint flexibility, muscle strength, and cardiovascular function – all of which translate to a sturdier body. In addition, patients who actively exercise report of experiencing less fatigue, which is the primary complaint during treatment. The reduction of fatigue and the increase of energy levels causes less stress and anxiety, which, in turn, contributes to a greater chance for a successful treatment.

Cancer recurrence is cancer that comes back after a successful treatment. One of the main causes of cancer recurrence is a change in lifestyle that often leads to obesity. It is well-known fact that obesity is closely linked to cancer: 1 in 20 cancers are linked to being overweight or obese. To prevent this from happening, exercise is imperative for weight loss.

So, what kind of exercise is the most helpful for cancer patients? Obviously, climbing Mount Everest or participating in an ultra-marathon is not the thing to do. Instead, an effective exercise consists of three components: aerobic, strength, and stretching. Aerobic exercises cause the heart to beat faster and is an efficient way of burning calories. Good aerobic exercises for cancer patients include bicycling, running, and even walking. Secondly, strength training improves muscle tone and counteracts the muscle decay that comes with the long period of muscle unused during cancer treatment. Lifting light weights or resistance bands are great exercises to participate in. Lastly, stretching is vital in every exercise program. Stretching keeps the muscle and joints limber, resulting in flexible, uninjured body.

As Thomson said, exercise is essential for good health and health is essential for a good, happy life. All three of these things should play an important role in your lifestyle. Keep it safe, keep it fun, and make it work for you!

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About the Author 

Joshua Moon is an intern at PHLBI who is interested in participating in biomedical research and exploring the medical field. He will be a senior at Oxford Academy in the 2017-2018 school year. Previously, he has participated in the research of the West Nile Virus and has been part of a biomedical class for two years. Joshua is an Eagle Scout and loves to play volleyball.

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