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More efficient than drugs? How much exercise protects us from cancer?


Sports for cancer: as important as medication
It has been known for a long time that you can prevent cancer by living a sporty lifestyle. And in cancer patients, physical activity can support healing. Experts explain why this is so.

Many cancers can be avoided
More and more people are getting cancer. Around half a million new cases are registered in Germany alone. According to experts, a large part of all cancers is considered preventable. A healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. One way to reduce personal cancer risk is to live an active sporting life. Regular exercise is also advisable for cancer patients. Because this can support recovery. An article on the "ONKO Internet portal" of the German Cancer Society explains why this is so.

Side effects of cancer therapy are reduced
The effects of sport in cancer patients have recently been increasingly investigated in clinical studies.

It has been shown, among other things, that physical activity can measurably reduce the side effects of chemotherapy or anti-hormonal therapy.

It also increases performance. Self-confidence is also strengthened, which can contribute to an enormous improvement in the quality of life.

But that's not all: physical activity also has a direct impact on the development of cancer, the course of cancer and the risk of relapse. Furthermore, sport can improve the quality of life during the illness.

Prevent cancer
Those who exercise regularly prevent cancer. As it says on the "ONKO Internet portal", it is assumed today that sporty people can reduce their risk of developing cancer by an average of 20 to 30 percent.

If cancer does occur, patients who have exercised regularly before their illness have been shown to have a lower risk of relapse.

According to the information, previously inactive patients can also benefit from a change in their lifestyle: physical activity after a tumor has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse and increase the likelihood of permanent healing.

Depending on the type of tumor, this effect can be advantageous to the same extent as chemotherapy or anti-hormone therapy. So far, this has been particularly well researched for breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Sports for breast cancer patients
Scientific studies have shown that physical activity helps against the side effects of therapy for breast cancer and supports the treatment.

A recent study from the USA also shows the need for exercise in breast cancer patients.

According to the German Cancer Society, it examined the extent to which walking or jogging affects the survival rate of women with breast cancer.

The study shows that the intensity of the sporting activity is related to the survival rate.

It becomes particularly clear that jogging in particular reduces breast cancer mortality. But studies have also shown positive effects for leukemia and other cancer patients.

A 2017 Canadian study looked at the effect of exercise on the side effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients.

For this, breast cancer patients with stage I-III had to complete a half-hour movement session 24 hours before chemotherapy.

The result: Significantly improved resting heart rate and blood pressure values. There were also other positive effects, such as less depressive moods and a decrease in back pain.

Nevertheless, such training should first be clarified with the doctor, because not every patient is in the appropriate physical condition.

Why sport works against cancer
According to the German Cancer Society, the biological mechanisms that explain why sport has a direct impact on cancer are still largely unknown. This also has to do with the fact that the growth of tumors depends on very complex processes.

However, because physical activity stimulates almost all organ systems and also affects the brain, this also affects the factors underlying the development of cancer.

This promotes blood flow to the entire body, which in turn makes it difficult for cancer cells to survive. In addition, the growth of the cancer cells is dependent on the breakdown products of glucose, which are increasingly consumed during exercise.

Sport brings the energy balance up to speed and helps to maintain a healthy body weight. It also has positive effects on the psyche, which also affects the general condition and the immune system.

The tumor-specific effects include the influence on sex hormones, antioxidative effects or an improvement in DNA repair mechanisms, as well as the reduction in insulin and the body's own messenger substances.

There are also other mechanisms that are decisive for certain types of cancer: stimulating the metabolism, for example, shortens the contact time of possible carcinogenic substances in the stomach and intestines.

In women with hormone-dependent breast cancer, exercise lowers the level of estrogen in the blood and tissue - just like drug-based anti-hormonal therapy.

Healthier lifestyle
The healthier lifestyle associated with sport should also not be underestimated: those who exercise often automatically do without excessive consumption of alcohol or nicotine.

Your own body perception also changes and becomes more conscious, so that changes in the state of being are more often noticed at an earlier stage of the cancer and thus enable an earlier start of therapy.

One example is cachexia, weight loss in the first six months of cancer. If you are clear about your own endurance performance, the symptoms can be recognized early.

There is a direct connection between the amount of exercise and the anti-cancer effects: the more exercise, the greater the effect.

Nevertheless, caution against overload is advised, it is necessary to design a moderate training program tailored to the patient's individual options.

So far, combined strength and endurance training has proven to be particularly advantageous, with additional elements for training flexibility and coordination.

Strength training must be followed by a phase of regeneration and recovery. A diet tailored to the sports program is also necessary in order not to overwhelm the body.

As the "ONKO Internet portal" says, you should ideally do 18-25 MET per week. MET (metabolic equivalent task) is the unit for the metabolism during physical activity; 1 MET corresponds to the energy consumption of 1 kcal per kilogram of body weight per hour.

A particularly large number of METs are used every hour when swimming (8), playing football, skiing or jogging (7 each). But also domestic activities such as vacuuming (6), gardening (5) and mowing the lawn (5.5) quickly fill her MET account.

If you prefer to take it a little easier, you can also get to the weekly MET target with several hours of walking (4), walking (3) or cycling (4).

It is advisable to get professional advice on creating and exercising the sports program.

Whatever you choose, it is important: it must be fun! Sports and exercise bring cancer patients out of the vicious circle of illness, depression and loneliness. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: The Science of How the Body Heals Itself with William Li,. (August 2020).