We all know about the benefits of exercise in helping to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, by helping to control weight and strengthening the immune system, but did you also know that exercise may also help to beat cancer?
Research by the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York has shown that exercise can make cancer drugs more effective, thereby boosting survival rates in people with pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal cancers with 95% of people who have it, dying from it. Pancreatic cancer is caused by the irregular and uncontrollable growth of cells in the pancreas (a gland in the digestive system). There is no screening for this type of cancer which often shows no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, meaning that there are few options available to sufferers once they are diagnosed. The best course of treatment is removal of the cancerous tissue but only a small percentage have this option as it is often found too late when the cancer has started spreading to other parts of the body. People with the highest risk include those over 55 with other possible causes being smoking and other health issues such as diabetes. One in 10 cases are due to genetics. Scientists in the US found that exercise boosted the effectiveness of cancer drugs by as much as 175%.
Scientists discovered that humans and mice with pancreatic cancer who are given an exercise programme are more able to fight off the disease as proteins released by the body to help repair muscles after exercise, also attack cancer cells. Pancreatic cancer affects around 10,000 people a year in the United Kingdom, and is the sixth most common cause of death from cancer.
An initial study by researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York was conducted on mice with cancer and this showed that if they exercised for 30 minutes, 5 times a week, the rate of cancer accumulation lowered by 50% and that running on a treadmill frequently for three weeks lowered their tumor weight by 25%.
A study on humans was carried out in 2017 and involved a trial of 75 patients with pancreatic cancer. One group within the 75 was asked to do 30 minutes of strength-training, involving resistance training or yoga twice a week, and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, such as going for a brisk walk, for the six weeks leading up to surgery to remove their tumors. The group who exercised were found to have more CD8 T cells in the body as well as an overall survival rate of 5 years (50% higher than those who did not follow the exercise programme). Researchers discovered that adrenaline induced by exercise increases the ability of the immune system (specifically CD8 T cells), to attack and kill cancer cells.
The results of their study demonstrated how even small levels of exercise could help to treat pancreatic cancer, which, for such a lethal cancer with very limited treatment options, is a giant step forward.
Wow! Now that’s really something to think about!
The NHS advice is that we should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week, with resistance training/strength training, working all major muscle groups, on at least two of the days.
So, just two and a half hours of exercise a week can help to boost the effect of medication required for cancer treatment. Come and visit us at WFitness to see how we can help you to fit this into your lifestyle, by working with you to design a personal fitness plan for your needs and goals, in just 30 minute sessions. We are always on hand to help, advise and adjust your programme, in our small, friendly women-only studio.
Caroline & Hannah xx