For many years now, researchers have observed that people who do just one thing in their routine also tend to get less cancer. What is that one thing? Exercise. Why that is the case is now being explored in the lab.
The assumption has always been that people who take the time to exercise also don’t smoke, don’t drink much, and eat a healthier diet, and perhaps that is what yields positive results. While all of that may be true, researchers in Denmark have uncovered some of the nitty gritty on how exercise actually does help cleanse the body of the toxins that cause cancer. From the Daily Mail:
Danish researchers say that adrenaline, which gets released when we exercise, is a key to the protective effect.
The Copenhagen University Hospital doctors injected cancer cells into two groups of mice. The first had activity wheels on which they could run as much as they liked. The second group had no exercise other than moving inside their cages.
Dr Pernille Hojman, the oncologist who led the study, says that when the mice were exposed to a chemical known to cause liver cancer, only a third of the exercise group developed tumours compared with three- quarters of the non-exercisers.
Furthermore, the tumours that did grow in running-wheel mice were around 60 per cent smaller than those in their sedentary counterparts.
When Dr Hojman studied the tumours in the exercising mice, she found that they contained more infection-combating cells than the sedentary animals’ cancers.
From this, she discovered that a type of immune defence cell called a natural killer cell was fighting cancers in the exercising mice.
Adrenaline is known to power our natural killer cells. And another exercise-induced chemical, interleukin-6, helps these immune cells to target tumours.
When Dr Hojman’s team injected adrenaline and interleukin-6 into cancerous sedentary mice, the rodents’ immune systems attacked the tumours as effectively as if they had been exercising regularly.
This does not mean that medical science is going to simply develop an injection full of this killer cell and use it to combat the disease. What it does mean is that by getting off the couch (or away from the computer in some cases, like mine) and walking, swimming, or even cleaning the house, humans can do themselves a world of good. Other reasons that exercise is beneficial in the fight against cancer include:
- Moving more sends additional oxygen throughout the body. Cancer is known to thrive in low oxygen environments.
- Movement also gets the lymphatic system flowing. The lymphatic system sits just under the skin and moves toxins to the lungs and other organs for disposal from the body. It has no muscles to make the fluid move, so exercise keeps the flow of lymph going.
- By making the body tired – but NOT to the point of exhaustion (more on that below) – a person can sleep more deeply. The deepest level of sleep, stage IV, is when the body repairs itself.
One of the cautions that crops up in almost all studies regarding exercise as a cancer PREVENTATIVE is that the benefits of exercise disappear when the subject consistently exercises to exhaustion. Even in this new Danish study, the mice that exercised excessively had no benefit from the exercise. Why this is the case has not been demonstrated well to date, but this writer both knows and knew cancer victims who were athletes who tended to overdo it. Not unlike Lance Armstrong, actually.
So, now there is an actual study that supports the observation that people who exercise tend to have less cancer. Now scientists can say why. So, that means that the rest of us need to get up and get moving. After dinner. Maybe.