Keep Moving: Physical Activity for Cancer Patients

By Alyssa Adler

Physical activity is imperative in the aid of cancer prevention, cancer survivorship and overall health. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends that individuals stay physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. In addition, it is recommended to stay as active as possible and limit sedentary activities, such as watching TV. Even brisk walking can be beneficial to help reduce cancer risk.

The AICR explains that physical activity makes the immune system stronger. Further, physical activity keeps the digestive system healthy by allowing individuals to eat more food, with cancer fighting phytonutrients, without gaining weight. Exercise can also decrease hormone levels, in which high levels of certain hormones can be carcinogenic. For people that are primarily inactive looking to start exercising, the AICR recommends starting activity by doing moderate activity for short amounts of time. Then, working up to 30 minutes of activity each day.

Scientists found that 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes of rigorous activity has shown to have the greatest health benefits. Moderate activity can include brisk walking, or any activity that gets the heart beating slightly faster. Contrasting to moderate exercise, vigorous activity consists of the heart racing in a way that makes a person sweat, get warm, and start to feel out of breath.

There have been many studies concluding that leisure-time activity resulted in lower risks of colon, breast and endometrial cancers. Additionally, The National Cancer Institute notes a new study that found a relationship between increased physical activity and decreased risks in other types of cancer. Specifically, the greatest risk reductions were found in esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, gastric cardia cancer, kidney cancer and myeloid leukemia. Other cancers that showed significant reductions but not as strong as the latter include head and neck cancers, rectum cancer, and bladder cancer. Physical activity is not only pertinent for cancer patients, but for everyone such that physical activity is an important part of healthy living!

Keep in mind that a little physical activity is better than nothing. Every bit of activity can help!

Confused about where to start? Check out our article with Moving For Life Co-Founder Martha Eddy about how to get started again with exercise after cancer therapy. As always, make sure to check with your doctor before starting to avoid injury.


Alyssa Adler is a Boston University Graduate from Long Island, New York. She was CFYL’s 2016 summer web intern after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics. She has since gone on to earn her Masters degree, and is now a Clinical Nutritionist at Mt. Sinai’s St. Luke’s hospital here in New York City.  Alyssa has a food blog called Red Delicious and Nutritious which focuses on healthy eating and living and how decadent foods can be made wholesome and delicious. A woman after our own heart!





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