Exercise and Cancer

Exercise and Cancer

Written by: Emma Anius

Cancer is a disease affecting over 12.7 million people worldwide, although the survival rates for certain types cancer, including breast and colon cancer have improved dramatically over the last 40 years.  The World Health Organization (WHO) states that cancer is the leading cause of mortality globally. It accounts for over 7.6 million deaths a year, a number that is projected to continue rising to an estimated 13.1 million deaths by 2030.  The Caribbean is unfortunately no different, a study undergone in 2007, showed that there were 73,535 reported cases of cancer with greater than 50% of these cases resulting in death.

WHO recognized that 30% of deaths caused by cancer are related to 5 main behavioral and dietary risks (high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use).  All of these risks are preventable by simply incorporating more physical activity into our daily lives, changing our lifestyle slightly and improving the way we eat.

Studies have revealed that taking part in exercise can prevent you from developing certain types of cancer- including colon, breast, prostate, lung and uterus cancer. Prostate cancer is the 5th leading cause of death in St. Lucia followed by breast and lung cancer all being within the top 20.  Studies have also shown that people who are more physically active are 24% less likely to develop colon cancer than inactive people regardless of their diets, smoking habits or body weight.

Being overweight or obese has been indicated as a cause for an increased risk for developing cancer.  Incorporating more exercise into your daily life will help reduce your weight. Exercise also speeds up the body’s metabolism, which is believed to increase the speed at which food passes through the colon therefore reducing the time the colon lining is in contact with possible harmful chemicals.

Exercise not only helps prevent you from developing cancer, if you are already diagnosed it can help you fight it.  Regular exercise encourages the body to produce more white blood cells and boost its immune system which would help fight the disease, it can also reduce the time spent in hospital and increase survival rates.  As well as helping fight the disease, exercise also allows you to cope with the cancer by improving your quality of life. It helps improve your quality of life by increasing your energy levels- which makes you less tired, it increases your appetite, strength, flexibility, heart and lung function and for those on chemotherapy it can reduce the nausea and vomiting.

Once the treatment has finished, exercise can even reduce the impact of the side effects, such as swelling, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility, changes to weight and studies have shown that exercise even helps decrease the risk of the cancer from reoccurring.

Just 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, five days a week, can have a positive effect on your health.  It has been shown to reduce those with breast cancers risk of dying by 40 % and in those with prostate cancer, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of dying by 30%.  Moderate activity includes things such as very brisk walking, heavy cleaning – such as washing windows, vacuuming and mopping – mowing the lawn, cycling and badminton.

Physical activity may help you heal, but only if it is done in a manner that is appropriate for your condition.  If your blood count is low and you are at risk for developing an infection, then you should not take part in vigorous exercise; you should avoid uneven surfaces or any exercise that could lead to an injury.   While exercising you should not feel any pain, you might feel some soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit fatigued, but you should not feel pain.

Walking, running, dancing, weight training, yoga and swimming are all appropriate forms of exercise to do while battling cancer.  Although these are acceptable forms of exercise, the type of activity you partake in should be discussed with your doctor as they can assess what you are capable of doing depending on your fitness levels.

Looking after your body is the key to healthy living.

In loving memory of Uncle Philip, and to all those that have lost someone or are currently fighting the battle against cancer.


If you have no time to exercise or don’t know where to begin:




Side lunge x 10, Adductor lift x 15, Push ups x 10, Tricep dips x 10, Sit ups x 10




Side lunge x 15, Adductor lift x 25, Decline Push ups x 15, Tricep dips x 15, Sit ups x 20


Note: Emma Anius is a Personal Trainer for Cyan Fitness promoting a ‘healthy life and a better you.’

Email: emma@cyanfitness.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cyanfitness

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