Getting active after a cancer diagnosis may extend life

For people diagnosed with cancer, the risk of cancer death falls as physical activity rises, according to a new analysis of more than 70 existing studies.

Researchers writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded the current World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of moderate physical activity to combat the risk of chronic disease is correct.

The WHO recommends two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week for some health benefit and five hours of moderate exercise per week for additional benefit.

Taking half as much vigorous physical activity, like running, may provide the same benefits.

The authors note that although there are no specific recommendations for the levels of physical activity needed to combat cancer risk, increased activity has been linked to lower risk of death from breast, colorectal and prostate cancers.

“Our results might help to update the recommendation concerning the advisable amount of physical activity to reduce cancer mortality,” said senior author Dr. Li Liu of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China.

The researchers analysed 71 studies of physical activity and cancer death risk in the general population or among cancer survivors.

When they assimilated these results, they found people in the general population who got at least two and half hours of moderate activity like brisk walking, per week, were 13 percent less likely to die from cancer than those with the lowest activity levels.

Exercise after cancer diagnosis reduced cancer death risk more than pre-diagnosis exercise, the study team notes.

Exercise may change the body’s response to cancer and those who exercise more may live healthier lifestyles in other ways as well, Liu said.

Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine

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