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Cancer Care and the Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is known to have a number of health benefits and helps sustain a higher quality of life. The amount of physical activity an individual participates in might change with age; at any stage of life, regularly engaging in a form of exercise can significantly impact your health.

Exercise can be anything from light physical activity to intense workouts. Activities like walking, running, dancing, biking, swimming, performing household chores and playing sports are great ways to be physically active.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is strong evidence linking higher physical activity to lower cancer risk in several types of cancer including the following:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Stomach cancer

How Does Physical Activity Reduce the Risk of Cancer?

An over-sedentary lifestyle such as sitting, reclining, or lying down for extended periods of time (other than sleeping) increases the risk of developing chronic conditions and can lead to premature death. According to the National Cancer Institute, physical activity reduces the risk of cancer in these ways:

  • Prevents high blood levels of insulin
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves the immune system’s function
  • Alters the metabolism and bile acids which decrease exposure to the gastrointestinal tract to theses suspected carcinogens
  • Reduces the time it takes for food to travel through the digestive system which decreases gastrointestinal tract exposure to possible carcinogens
  • Helps prevent obesity which is a risk factor to many cancer types
  • Lowers the level of sex hormones such as estrogen and other growth factors that can be associated with cancer development and progression, more common in breast and colon cancers

What is an Appropriate Amount of Physical Activity?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, released in 2018, recommends the following to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic disease in adults.

  • 150 to 300 minutes of light to moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 100 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Your weekly exercise routine can be broken into separate episodes of any length, just try to hit the weekly amount appropriate for the level of the aerobic intensity
  • Along with your aerobic exercise, add in at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities a week
  • Incorporate balance training to your workout routines


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