Everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another. That is why all of us are in the fight against cancer together. But on a personal level, there is another way to try to kick cancer’s “you know what:” EXERCISE!!! There is a reason we utilize organized half-marathons to raise money for cancer research. It not only raises awareness, but it also demonstrates one of the best methods to prevent or help fight cancer with exercise. What’s more, it helps get out that word on the importance of early diagnosis.
The benefits exercise provides are numerous, both physically and psychologically. Dr. Bailey can personally attest to the power of exercise during her own battle with breast cancer. In this post, we further explore the reasons why exercise promotes health, especially in terms of cancer prevention and treatment.
Why Exercise Works
Considerable research has proven the effectiveness of exercise in lowering your cancer risk. Current research is focusing on how exercise may increase DNA repair capabilities and decrease chronic inflammation, which is considered a possible mechanism or contributor to cancer. However, the benefits discussed below are based on several studies and years of research.
1. Breast Cancer
According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, you can reduce your breast cancer risk by 30-40% if you exercise. This is a significant impact and does not even begin to count the other health improvements exercise brings. Exercise specifically lowers your risk for breast cancer because it:
- Lowers your estrogen level, a hormone that plays a role in many types of breast cancer.
- Fat cells hold and produce estrogen. (This is especially significant after menopause.) Exercise lowers your percentage of fat, thus lowering your estrogen.
- Lowers your insulin and other cancer-growth factors.
2. Colon Cancer
Exercise reduces your risk for colon cancer by 20% or more compared to a sedentary lifestyle.
- When you exercise, changes occur in your digestion and production of digestive acids (substances that protect against colon cancer).
- Exercise can decrease body fat and insulin that may impact your cancer risk.
3. Cancer Survivorship
After a cancer diagnosis, you might be surprised to have your doctor prescribe a daily exercise regimen. The National Institutes of Health explains how exercise has been shown to reduce feelings of fatigue and to improve general quality of life in women diagnosed with breast cancer. It might seem counterintuitive that exercise makes one feel less tired, but exercise helps regulate your energy balance.
Research has even shown improved survival rates in women who exercised three to five hours a week by walking at an average pace compared to sedentary women. Additionally, exercise helps you focus and provides control in a situation you feel you have very little control over (organizing your drawers or closet is not the same!). Exercise helps reduce stress and provides an outlet for all the strong emotions when facing a cancer diagnosis. Exercise nurtures both your body and mind and is considered a safe practice for those even undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Always discuss with your physician the appropriate level of exercise and design a routine that fits best with your daily life.
- Get an exercise buddy. It can be hard to motivate yourself, but having a friend present can really help. A workout buddy can make time fly too.
- Schedule for days you have the most energy and plan ahead.
- Find a type of physical activity you enjoy. It can be walking, hula hooping, swimming, dancing, etc. Get creative and have fun.
- Sign up for a class. If you feel you need more structure, classes offer a great alternative and may introduce you to a new activity as well. Often many physical activity classes are free or donation-based, such as Yoga for the People.
- Find activities with minimal equipment or that do not depend on weather. When first starting out, you might be overwhelmed if you decide to try out rock climbing or other activities that require significant gear. So, pick something such as walking or jump roping that can be done both indoors and outdoors.
There are only positive benefits to adding more exercise into your life. The national guidelines state you should participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. So, it’s time to dust off those old pair of sneakers and do your favorite physical activity. Share with us your favorite way to exercise below! We bet you have some great tips to share as well!
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Trim your cancer risk with exercise. Retrieved from: http://www.fredhutch.org/en/events/healthy-living/Trim-Risk.html
National Institute of Health: National Cancer Institute. Physical activity and cancer. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/physical-activity-fact-sheet