How exercise kills cancer cells

"The evidence is so strong now. Exercise is a very powerful medicine. It increases survival and it has no side effects.” -- Professor Robert Newton

As a fitness junkie who trains 3-4 times a week, I know how good it feels to exercise. I feel strong. I feel energised. I feel healthy.

But to know that exercise might be powerful enough to kill cancer cells, well that just takes the benefits of fitness to a whole new level.

I recently watched ABC’s Science program Catalyst presented by Dr Jonica Newby about a group of cancer patients who were prescribed targeted exercise programs. The results were astounding.

Exercise may double your chance of surviving cancer. The world first research was done right here in Australia for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Those patients were given specific exercises related to their tumours and asked to do them right after their treatment.

Sounds a bit punishing, to expect chemo patients to be lifting weights after they’ve been pumped full of Cytoxan, but the radical idea worked.

Not only did the exercise make people feel better at the end of each treatment session, their muscles started to produce chemicals which destroyed tumour cells. How mind blowing is that?

The doctors think that because exercise increases blood flow, it potentially allowed more chemical to get inside the tumour to destroy it.

But even healthy people without cancer are out in front if they’re physically active. A study in Sweden showed that blood serum taken after exercise was able to suppress cancer growth by 31%.

Mice with cancer that were given a running wheel had a massive 70% less cancer growth than the lazy rodents. The tumours of the exercising mice were full of ‘natural killer cells’ that supercharged the immune system.

“It’s the body generating its own chemotherapy, its own anti-cancer drugs. It’s a very powerful medicine,” says Professor Robert Newton of the Exercise Medicine Research Institute Edith Cowan University.

Exercise physiologists said while patients often dragged themselves into the gym, most were feeling better by the end of the session and reported fewer ongoing side effects like fatigue.

“It made me feel better. I walked out with more energy, and it curbed the nausea,” said breast cancer survivor, Natalie.

She and the other cancer patients she met in the hospital gym said the exercise was definitely part of the road to recovery.

“I know it helped me bounce back. It meant everything. My life.”

Watch the Catalyst program on Exercise and Cancer:

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Article by Guest Blogger Katie Cincotta

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