Cancer Prevention Can Be As Simple As Getting People Moving
It should come as no surprise that evidence continues to pile up that an active lifestyle plays a critical role in preventing cancer.
Of course, it’s also no surprise just how few Americans have physical activity as a priority in their lives. This winter, many in the northern Hemisphere will spend the next few months in relative isolation. More than ever, Americans will be even less likely to go to the gym, run or exercise out of doors, or commit to regular events like 5K runs or ski outings due to the pandemic. In the short term, the hesitancy to engage in group activities and indoor exercise are good things. In the long run, however, Americans may be creating habits that worse the national obesity pandemic.
A landmark study in 2016 found that regular exercise has a direct impact on at least 13 kinds of cancers. There are additional benefits, too, including a lower chance of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other life-long health conditions. There is also evidence that physical activity can actually have positive benefits after a cancer diagnosis, too. Several studies have found that exercise can reduce inflammation in tissue affected by tumors.
Just last year, a study by the American College of Sports Medicine found that regular exercise could reduce the risk of developing at least some types of cancer by as much as 69 percent. That same study offered further insight on the benefits of exercise, including longer lifespans and improving cancer outcomes.
This year, researchers in Sweden injected mice with cancer to study how exercise might prevent cancer. After weeks of testing, mice adhering to a strict regimen of running saw little evidence of tumor growth. With several types of cancer being tested, physical activity seems to be more influential on breast cancer tumors and other ‘hard’ or solid cancer strains. They study has so far concluded that exercise may be offering the body a boost to its immune system, specifically in certain types of white blood cells.
When the T-cells from healthy running mice were injected into their sedentary counterparts, there is evidence that the injections helped to fight off infection more successfully than mice injected with immune cells from less active mice from the study.
The study has not yet been published, though there’s tremendous opportunity to bring its findings to bear in the fight against cancer in humans. One of the most important efforts will be to learn how health cells can be best harvested, stored, and paired to target the types of cancer tumors that they are most successful in warding out.
What we can do now is to inform ourselves and our communities in easy ways to get and stay physically active year-round. By investing in after school and even remote programs for students in lockdown to keep moving, offering subsidizes outdoor recreational opportunities in certain communities, and finding creative ways to create safe indoor spaces with limited attendance for exercise in the pandemic, we can avoid spending a COVID-19 sedentary and creating bad habits that could cost lives.