The benefits of exercise for those with localised cancer may be similar to the benefits from chemotherapy. Physical activity is certainly not a substitute for having chemotherapy or other therapies, but we’re increasingly realising it’s an important part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Large long-term (epidemiological) studies of disease trends have shown that those who exercise regularly are less likely to develop breast, colon or prostate cancer than those who don’t. Estimates suggest it may reduce the risk of developing cancer by up to 60%.
We also know that physical activity reduces the risk of other diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And physical activity helps some people manage their mood and sleep patterns.

But what if you already have cancer?

A long-term study of a large group of women in the United States, some of whom later developed breast or colorectal (bowel) cancer, found that those who self-reported higher levels of physical activity had a much lower rate (up to 50%) of cancer recurrence.

A follow up of nearly 3,000 nurses found that those doing more physical activity after being diagnosed with breast cancer decreased their risk of dying prematurely (from any cause) and reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer. Those meeting current physical activity guidelines (such as brisk walking for two hours a week) almost halved their risk of death from breast cancer compared with those who were sedentary.

Similar results were seen in the nurses who developed colorectal cancer. Those exercising more than the physical activity guideline recommendations (such as four hours of brisk walking) halved their risk of dying from colorectal cancer.

Another study in both men and women with colon cancer found that people doing more than the recommended minimum of physical activity each week reduced the risk of their cancer returning (at three years) by about half – that’s an absolute improvement of about 10%.

It was not the amount of physical activity people were doing before their cancer diagnosis that was important, but what they did after. There also appears to be a “dose-response” effect: some physical activity is better than none, but, within reason, more physical activity is better.

 Click here to read more of this article  by Haryana M Dhillon and Janette Vardy from The Conversation