Exercise is one of the most powerful weapons you can add to your arsenal of protection against chronic diseases. And cancer is no exception. While you might think you need to invest hours of time and hundreds of pounds into gym memberships and equipment, exercising to suppress cancer might be surprisingly easy.
Whether you do a five-minute work-out at home or head to the local gym, all types of exercise are undoubtedly good for your health.
A new study, published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, has made even a stronger case for adding physical activity to your regimen.
The research suggested that just one workout could help suppress cancer.
The research team found that a single bout of exercise can suppress tumour growth and actively fight cancerous cells.
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What’s more, the findings shared that even those with incurable, advanced cancer could reap the benefits.
This new research builds on a discovery by researcher at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia, which found that people with prostate cancer can change the chemical environment of their body to suppress cancer cell growth by exercising.
People who followed exercise training for six months produced a protein produced by skeletal muscles which stimulate anti-cancer processes in the body, known as myokines.
ECU’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute (EMRI) found that just one exercise bout can elevate myokines even further, adding to the suppression of cancer.
The researchers believe this “exciting”, new study is a “breakthrough” and could shape advice given to cancer patients.
Professor Rob Newton, a researcher from EMRI, said: “The findings from our work are particularly exciting because we report for the first time ever that men with advanced prostate cancer are able to produce an acute elevation in anti-cancer molecules called myokines in response to a single bout of vigorous exercise.
“This is helping us to understand why patients with cancer who exercise exhibit slower disease progression and survive for longer.
“These patients are palliative, so there is no cure and they will eventually succumb – however, there is evidence that exercise will extend survival and the increased myokine levels explored in our recent paper is a prime mechanism.”
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The research team instructed nine patients with late-stage prostate cancer to perform 34 minutes of high-intensity exercise on a stationary bicycle.
Blood serum was collected before and after the workout, as well as 30 minutes after.
The serum taken straight after showed elevated levels of anti-cancer myokines, which suppressed the growth of prostate cancer cells by around 17 percent.
To achieve this, Professor Newton suggested the sweet spot is around 20 minutes of workout each day.
He added: “The optimal dose of exercise is not yet known, but it is likely to be 20-plus minutes each day and must include resistance training to grow the muscles, increase the size and capacity of the internal pharmacy, and stimulate the myokine production.
“This study provides strong evidence for the recommendation patients with prostate cancer, and likely anybody with any cancer type, should perform exercise most days, if not every day, to maintain a chemical environment within their body which is suppressive of cancer cell proliferation.”
This is not the first research to tie cancer to exercise, with a study, published in the journal Cancer Research, highlighting that aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer by 72 percent.
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, includes the likes of brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling.
The NHS advises: “Speak to your GP first if you have not exercised for some time, or if you have medical conditions or concerns.
“Make sure your activity and its intensity are appropriate for your fitness.”