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 Can sport help cure cancer?

New research shows that sport can help treat cancer, and there is evidence to support this. Physical activity is thus presented as a panacea that can be included in the treatment protocol for various serious and chronic diseases. For cancer, it is now recognized that a rigorous exercise program prescribed by a doctor is an effective and sustainable solution.

Exercise for more effective treatment

For Australian cancer researcher Professor Rob Newton, the role of exercise is a major game-changer. "Drugs target a specific problem, but they also have side effects that are difficult for the patient to manage. This is not the case with exercise". 

Even in the United Kingdom, experts recognize the benefits of exercise. For example, the National Health Service now prescribes intensive exercise programs lasting several weeks or months to newly diagnosed cancer patients to quickly improve their fitness and prepare their bodies for the weakening of the immune system resulting from treatment.

Can sport help cure cancer?

Regular exercise also improves mental well-being, which is important for people suffering from a serious illness or undergoing chemotherapy. Physical activity can also help return to a normal weight. Research shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of cancer, particularly in the endometrium, esophagus, liver, pancreas, and breast. Recent studies also show that exercise can reduce the size of tumors.

A recent study comparing physically active and inactive cancer patients found that treatments to reduce tumor size were significantly more effective in those who exercised. Study participants who did 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise and two strength-training sessions (the equivalent of four rounds of chemotherapy) for an average of five months saw their tumors shrink. The athletes also had more robust immune systems and lower levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood.

Molecules caused by exercise burn cancer cells

Another recent study of the effects of exercise on tumor suppression looked at the endocrine function of skeletal muscle. The researchers focused on myokines, a type of molecule produced in muscle tissue during exercise. The researchers found that changes in myokine levels correlated with changes in muscle mass, suggesting that muscle hypertrophy is a key factor in serum myokine levels. After following prostate cancer patients who underwent resistance training and aerobic exercise for 12 weeks, the researchers found a significant increase in serum myokine levels at rest.

When this serum was applied to prostate cancer cells in a culture dish, the researchers found that the growth of the cancer cells decreased by 21%.

What is the ideal prescription?

According to a report by Exercise and Sports Science Australia, each type of cancer requires a specific prescription. However, in most cases, a combination of moderate to high-intensity exercise is adequate. And the concept of fun is paramount. Any activity that the patient enjoys or feels has a positive impact on their quality of life will have a greater impact on their overall condition. Although yoga - a low-intensity activity - does not improve cardiovascular status in the same way as other exercises, it has psychological benefits that can be very significant.

Professor Rob Newton, who co-authored the report, says it doesn't matter what kind of activity you do, as long as you do it every day, regardless of the severity of your disease. "The total rest strategy is counterproductive, it will only make your condition worse."

To what extent can exercise prevent cancer?

Much evidence suggests that long-term sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, particularly uterine cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer. A new study shows that physical inactivity is a risk factor for cancer and, more importantly, how exercise can reduce or even prevent the disease. By comparing cancer incidence and physical activity levels in nearly 600,000 men and women, researchers were able to link 3% of cancer cases in the US to physical inactivity. They concluded that more than 46,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year if the US population engaged in the recommended moderate physical activity of five hours per week.


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