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Exercise Benefits - Cancer Blog 3rd October 2023

Published on 03 October 2023 12:27 PM

The Benefits of Exercise

We all know that regular exercise helps to keep us in good shape - but did you know that being active lowers your risk of 13 different types of cancer? This includes two of the most common cancers - breast and bowel - and three of the toughest to treat - pancreatic, oesophageal and gallbladder cancers. 

Exercise isn’t just about weight loss; a sedentary lifestyle is damaging to our health, with the Department of Health and Social Care deeming inactivity the "silent killer". Sitting or lying down for long periods is very harmful, but worrying research suggests that many adults spend more than seven hours a day sitting down at work, travelling, or in their free time. People aged 65+ spend ten hours or more daily sitting or lying down, making them the most inactive age group.

The good news is, that exercise can lower your risk of early death by up to 30%, according to the NHS. You will gain from any amount of exercise, but the more active you can be, the greater you will feel - regular activity has been shown to reduce your risk of depression by almost a third!

There are countless other benefits of regular exercise for your mind and body

  • Reduces anxiety and stress levels.
  • It lowers your risk of developing other health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
  • Improves your sleep and increases energy and concentration levels.
  • Improves your mood and self-esteem.
  • Opportunities to socialise and increase your confidence.
  • Improves memory, and reduces the risk of dementia and falls in older adults.
  • Strengthens your muscles, improves bone health and reduces your risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Improves flexibility and balance.

How exactly does exercise lower my cancer risk?

According to Cancer Research, being active and maintaining a healthy weight can:

  • Reduce inflammation. Too much inflammation can cause our cells to divide more frequently, increasing our cancer risk.
  • Support your immune system and become fighting fit, so your body is more effective at recognising and dealing with cells that can become cancerous.
  • Decrease the levels of oestrogen and insulin in your body. These hormones can encourage breast cells to divide more regularly, therefore increasing your cancer risk.
  • Help move food through our bowels faster. This means that anything detrimental in the food we eat and the waste we excrete (poo) spends less time in our bowel, helping to prevent bowel cancer. 

How can I be more active?

The great news is, that you don’t have to fork out for gym membership or force yourself on a run to get more active! There doesn’t have to be a huge cost involved, and any movement that gets you warmer, a bit out of breath, and your heart beating faster is perfect – whatever that might be. It could be dancing around the kitchen, doing the hoovering, digging up weeds in the garden or carrying the shopping home.

You can make simple, everyday swaps like taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the shops instead of driving, or moving around whilst talking on the phone. Hire a bike on your local trail, try a yoga class, take a walk on your lunch break or experience the buzz of sea swimming.

Walking is a natural mood-booster, releasing endorphins – feel-good chemicals that promote relaxation and improve wellbeing. Ramblers groups are a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, get outdoors, discover new places and socialise. You can find Ramblers groups across Cornwall here: Search results - Ramblers

Parkrun is a friendly, free and inclusive community event, where you can jog, run or walk 5k. This is done at your own pace; there is no time limit and everyone is welcome to join in, whatever your age or ability. Get fresh air, meet new people and get yourself out on a Saturday morning; find your nearest Parkrun here events | parkrun UK


Loss of Control

"Living with cancer can be a very uncertain time, and a cancer diagnosis or treatment can lead to feeling a loss of control"

But being active and getting into an exercise routine can increase your sense of control, and help you feel more positive and liberated. You have nothing to lose, and sticking to a regular exercise regime following cancer treatment means you reduce the risk of late effects of treatment, such as blood clots and weight changes. You also maintain your strength, fitness and bone health. Research has found that being physically active can help to prevent some cancers from returning (as well as reduce your risk of developing other health problems, like heart disease, stroke and diabetes).

Will it benefit my mental health?

Did you know that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy in treating depression? Highly active people tend to have lower stress levels than less-active individuals; this is because exercise helps to clear your mind, distract you from worries, and release any tension.

That's it for now, check in for our next blog in a few weeks. In the meantime, if you need a little helping hand or need a chat, please don't forget to contact the Community Gateway on 01872 266383