Exercise as a Natural Treatment for Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, regular physical activity plays a fundamental role in improving the quality of life. Regular exercise is also a critical component of energy balance. Energy balance is a term used to describe the complex relationship of diet, weight and physical activity has on health, which also includes the risk of cancer. In recent years, evidence has grown to support the role of exercise during all stages of cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is frequently associated with side effects, such as anemia and fatigue, which can make a person feel very tired. But, it is very important to remain as physically active as possible. The combination of rest and diminished physical activity leads to loss of function, which can aggravate the symptoms of cancer, such as nausea, fatigue and depression. In addition, prolonged bed rest leads to muscle loss and painful joints which in turn can lead to decreased mobility. In most cases, the person will not be able to perform simple tasks, such as sitting up or walking, after only weeks of bed rest. A combination of gentle stretching helps relax painful joints and muscles, so they can be exercised and strengthened. Mild to moderate amounts of exercise can rebuild loss muscle mass. The positive effects of exercise do not end with building muscle. Researchers have found that exercise has been shown to help improve a cancer prognosis; increase survival rates and lowers the incidence of a relapse.
Over 50 studies on colorectal cancer have been conducted to explore the protective mechanisms of exercise. It's believed that exercise protects the body against colon cancer through its role in hormone metabolism, energy balance, insulin regulation and by decreasing intestinal transit time. The greatest magnitude of protective effects has been shown to be the strongest in high intensity activity. It's estimated that between 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily is all that is required to protect a person colon cancer. In the pre-cancer stage, individuals who exercise in moderate amounts have been known to help reduce their risk of developingcolorectal cancer by as much as 40 percent in comparison to those living a sedentary lifestyle, regardless of body mass index (BMI). Other studies have also found that regular physical activity not only reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by 25 to 30 percent, exercise has also been found to have an inhibitory effect on cancer cell growth.
The American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism found that regular exercise helped release humeral factors from working muscles. These humeral factors are rich in myokines, which play a valuable role in immune response. The myokines are found in high concentrations after exercise, and have been shown to have an effect in slowing down the growth of cancerous cells in breast tissue. This is a strong indicator that women who exercised regularly receiving cancer treatment were more likely to survive and recover, than women who were sedentary. Even more surprising, these findings were unaffected by the level of physical fitness of the women before receiving cancer treatment.
Regardless of what cancer has affected a person's life, a personalized and consistent exercise regime has been shown to have significant effects on promoting recovery and preventing relapse. Endurance training from exercise plays an important role in managing the symptoms associated with cancer, and in the recovery of people following treatment. A recent report investigating the relationship between cancer and exercise, found that regular exercise after cancer treatment helped recovery physical function, as well as reduced the risk of cancer relapse and the mortality rate of some cancers. In addition, this study also found that physical activity further reduced the risk of developing other long-term conditions.