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Exercise May Be Key in Smart Cancer Care

Exercise May Be Key in Smart Cancer Care: Main Image
Men who exercised more frequently after their diagnosis of colorectal cancer had a lower risk of death
Even after diagnosis, the power of exercise may still positively impact the health of those with cancers of the colon and rectum. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, men who exercise frequently after a colorectal cancer diagnosis may lower their risk of death.

Beating the odds

While it is known that exercise may help prevent cancer, less is known about the effects of exercise in people who already have cancer. In this study, 668 men with nonmetastatic colorectal cancer participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were assessed for the amount they exercised after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer and were followed to see if exercise helped them live longer. Men filled out questionnaires about recreational physical activities, including time spent walking, running, bicycling, lap swimming, doing yoga, or other activities.

Men who exercised more frequently after their diagnosis of colorectal cancer had a lower risk of death caused by colorectal cancer or any other cause compared with men who exercised less frequently or not at all.

Exercise may help reduce the risk of death from cancer by improving immune system function, reducing inflammation, or other mechanisms. The authors state that this hopeful study should lead to further research trials to determine the benefits of exercise in cancer survivors.

Exercise is a powerful prevention tool

It is well known that exercise may help prevent disease and improve health. National guidelines recommend that on most days of the week adults should exercise 60 minutes a day and children 90 minutes a day. Here are more examples of the benefits of exercise:

  • Lowers cancer risk. Exercise may help reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer. But exercise also has benefits after a diagnosis of cancer including decreased cancer-related fatigue, improved mood and sense of well-being, and as this new study shows--perhaps a lower risk of death.
  • Good for glucose. Regular exercise improves glucose or "sugar" regulation and may help prevent or improve diabetes.
  • Good for your heart and blood vessels. A person's risk of developing heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke may all be reduced by exercising on a regular basis.
  • Helps reduce and maintain weight. Exercise is a key component in a person's effort to lose or maintain weight.

Remember to also exercise caution: If you suffer from a medical condition check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

(Arch Intern Med 2009;169:2102-8)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.