Exercise drops cancer death risk for patients

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Excerpt from Reuters Sept 23, 2015

For people diagnosed with cancer, the risk of cancer death falls as physical activity rises, according to a new analysis of more than 70 existing studies.

The researchers included 71 studies of physical activity and cancer death risk in the general population or among cancer survivors.

When they pooled these results, people in the general population who got at least two and half hours of moderate activity like brisk walking, per week, were 13 percent less likely to die from cancer than those with the lowest activity levels. (That’s about 21 minutes per day of brisk walking)

They also looked at data in terms of MET-hours, a measure of the relative amounts of energy expended in given activities and time spent doing them. Resting represents 1 MET, while a 4-MET activity like brisk walking uses four times as much energy, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Doing a 4-MET activity for 30 minutes equals 2 MET-hours.

Cancer survivors who completed at least 15 MET hours per week of physical activity were 27 percent less likely to die from cancer. (That’s about 4 hours per week or 35 minutes per day of moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking)

Exercise may change the body’s response to cancer, and those who exercise more may live healthier lifestyles in other ways as well, Liu said.

But many of the high-quality studies included in this analysis accounted for other healthy-lifestyle factors that may have played a role, Liu noted. (Like dropping bad habits and eating tons of fruits and vegetables)

“Physical activity, mostly before diagnosis, and breast cancer mortality has been studied for decades, but only in the last 10 years or so have we been studying physical activity after diagnosis,” said Patrick T. Bradshaw of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not part of the new study.

“Other cancers (e.g. colorectal, ovarian) have been studied much less than breast cancer, but some researchers there have also found a reduction in mortality associated with increasing physical activity levels,” Bradshaw told Reuters Health by email.

Leisure time physical activity or recreational physical activity, but not occupational activity, is protective against cancer according to most research, Liu said.

“The take-home message here is encouraging – exercise may be beneficial even if started after diagnosis,” Bradshaw said.

Based on huge evidence of the inverse association between physical activity and cancer mortality, there is no doubt that cancer patients should be physically active,” Liu said. “We suggest that cancer patients to consult their doctors about a personalized physical activity plan, including exercise time, exercise frequency, exercise mode and so on, which may help to promote the survival of patients without bringing too much physical burden.”

[End of article]

Rebound exercise was an integral part of my daily anti-cancer exercise routine. It’s the best exercise for your immune system. More about rebounding here.

Rebound, walk, run, bike, climb, surf, ski, lift weights, do yoga, karate, pilates, jazzercise… just move your body 30-60 minutes every day!


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  • Dzndef

    I am lying on the couch while I read this. With all the controversy surrounding various approaches to cancer, there is one “treatment” that EVERYONE agrees on: Excercise. When your oncologist, GP, Naturopath and alternative practioners ALL advise you to exercise, well, its time to get moving.

    Thanks for the reminder, Chris! I’m getting off the couch right now!

  • Jeanne Newberry

    Such great confirmation to what I do. I honestly wish I had a better attitude about exercising but knowing I am doing long-term good for my body does help. I still wish I had a better attitude!

  • Steph

    I don’t disagree at all with the main point. We should all exercise – especially gentle movement throughout the day. The scientific evidence for its benefits are indisputable. I’m just a little skeptical of this particular article.

    I’m wondering if they were able to adequately control for the stage/severity of the cancer at diagnosis as well as performance status at diagnosis. I didn’t pay to download the paper, I just read the abstract, so I should probably shut my mouth, but I’m just curious. It was particularly curious to read in the abstract that they found that exercise post-diagnosis was more strongly associated with survival. This seems somewhat strange since diagnosis is just an arbitrary point in time, not necessarily a significant milestone in the disease – unless the cancer is so advanced that strong symptoms are what tip off the diagnosis – in which case the ability of exercise to hold off disease is dubious to me – rather I would think it goes the opposite way – that the disease prevents exercise, which makes those with less severe disease (and a naturally longer survival) better able to exercise. I think of this example because my mom was diagnosed with liver metastasis two months ago and she was basically bed-ridden at diagnosis and currently is not able to walk more than a mile or so a day. So in her case, the disease controls her physical activity, not the other way around.

    Also I would think that if their methodology was really sound, they would have published this important finding to an oncology journal with a higher impact rating than 5… I don’t know any oncologists who are opposed to exercise!! Or who would see this finding as a threat to conventional treatment. The audience for this paper should be oncologists, not exercise scientists!

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