Exercise and Cancer

Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.

This article was edited and updated on December 5, 2021.

What is cancer?

Millions of cells within our body form our muscles, bones and organs. Each cell knows how to do its job, whatever task that may be.

Unfortunately, sometimes an anomaly occurs: a tumour (an abnormal growth of tissue) may form or spread through the blood or lymphatic system. Cancer, then, is a disease that starts in our cells.

Tumours can be either benign or malignant:

Cancer can spread (or metastasize) to almost any part of the body. It is important to find and treat malignant tumours as early as possible.

Cancers are often named after the part of the body where they start.2

Will daily exercise prevent cancer?

Exercise is very good for you — it can even be a substitute for medication. But, at this time, there are no known cures for cancer. Not even exercise. However, there are studies that indicate that exercise may mitigate cancer risks.

Aside from exercise, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk, as there are many known risk factors for the disease. Smoking may be responsible for as many as 30% of all cancer deaths. As well, one-third of cancers can be linked to diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. 3

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, "About half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the public."

To help reduce your risk of developing cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends that you consider these lifestyle choices:

How does exercise help — either before or after getting cancer?

A recent study from the National Cancer Institute seems to prove that exercise can be beneficial. 4

The final review and results of this study state:

What activities might help?

The answer to this comes down to your energy levels (especially if you are currently dealing with cancer and the side effects of treatment) and what kind of activities you enjoy doing. What you do is up to you, but you can choose from a variety of activities such as walking, fitness classes, swimming, or dancing.

There is no limit: Whatever you choose to do, make it simple, within your budget and your time parameters, but make it something that you can do regularly.

This article is part of a series about various health conditions and the benefits of exercise. The other articles are:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. ↩︎

  2. Read more: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/what-is-cancer/?region=bc#ixzz3HMmfXlTf ↩︎

  3. The Canadian Cancer Society has an excellent web page (http://www.cancer.ca). Much of the information for this section came from their web page. ↩︎

  4. For detailed information on this study, see http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/physicalactivity. ↩︎