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Will Exercise Help Prevent Cancer?

Will Exercise Help Prevent Cancer?


Will exercise help prevent cancer? I'm a cancer survivor, a physician and a proponent of exercise to help us create a cancer-fighting physiology.

The answer to the question about exercise and cancer prevention is - yes, it helps!

It also helps cancer survivors prevent cancer recurrence. Science has proven it. As a cancer survivor, I know that it also helped me tolerate chemotherapy and surgery, and helps me to feel vital and happy. When I don't exercise, I feel less so.

In my medical opinion, the general physiologic benefits of exercise should help with cancer. Your exercise routine is important, no matter what beastly cancer you worry about or are at risk for!

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions related to exercising more? Is your resolution slipping with the winter weather?

It often does about this time into the New Year. Cold winter weather makes it hard to want to go outdoors, short days make you want to be home and cozy, and good TV shows keep you up and make you want to sleep in. At least, these are the reasons I’ve missed my walk the past few days since returning home from Australia.

I need motivation, and it just came into my email box from the National Cancer Institute. They recently updated their fact sheet on exercise and cancer. I’m going to share the motivation with you, so we both take a walk or hit the gym this week. No excuses.

The National Cancer Institute says exercise helps fight cancer by:

  1. Lowering your levels of hormones and growth factors that promote cancer.
  2. Reducing the general physiology of inflammation in your body. This physiology also promotes cancer.
  3. Boosting your immune system and its ability to fight cancer.
  4. Lowering your risk of obesity. Obesity is linked to higher risk of cancer.
  5. Helping protect your gut from cancers of the colon by reducing constipation, and other more erudite aspects of gut physiology that reduces colon cancer.

Exercise is good for fighting, and reducing the risk of cancer. Have you noticed that it seems to be “raining cancer” lately? More and more people who seem healthy are surprising me with cancer diagnosis. That includes me in 2013, though my BRCA gene mutation sadly made that unavoidable.

How much physical activity do you need to reap the “substantial health benefits” of exercise, including reduction of cancer risk?

150 minutes a week (2 hours and 30 minutes total) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity

  • Measured by being able to talk, but not sing!
  • CDC gives examples as:
    • walking briskly at 3 miles per hour or faster,
    • water aerobics,
    • bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour,
    • doubles tennis,
    • ballroom dancing,
    • general gardening.


75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic activity

  • Measured by being unable to say more than a few words without catching your breath!
  • CDC gives examples as:
    • jogging or race walking,
    • swimming laps,
    • singles tennis,
    • aerobic dancing,
    • bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster,
    • jumping rope,
    • heavy gardening like digging or hoeing,
    • hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack.


a combo of these performed in at least 10 minute sessions throughout the week.

If you prefer to exercise outdoors, be sure to sun protect your skin.

Dermatologist's advice for sun protection while you exercise outdoors.

You need a proper sun hat, sunscreen, and sun protective clothing.

Get my SPECIFIC product recommendations on my NEW Sun Protection Advice Page by clicking here.

dermatologist's sunscreens and tips to exercise outsideSee the sun protection products and tools that I trust, use and recommend. These are products that I've seen work patient after patient. 

Who is going to hit the gym or walk in the cold rain today??