Aerobic Exercise May Lower Risk of Metastatic Cancer By Up to 72%

Exercise has been found to help cancer survivors build back strength and fitness after treatment, lessen the symptoms of depression, and even improve chemo brain. A new study finds that certain aerobic activities could also substantially slash the risk of a cancer spreading.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University recently investigated the link between exercise and metastatic cancer incidence. According to findings published in the journal Cancer Research, high intensity aerobic exercise was linked with an up to 72% lower risk of metastatic cancer. The team says this may be because the activity causes organs to increase their glucose consumption, which reduces the amount of glucose available to tumors.


To conduct their research, the team took data from a study monitoring 3,000 healthy people for roughly 20 years. Participants were examined before and after running. The data from these participants showed that there was a 72% lower incidence of metastatic cancer in those who reported regular high-intensity aerobic activity, compared with those who didn’t work out at all.

An animal model mirrored these results, and it allowed researchers to better understand exercise’s impact on cancer. They found that working out helped reduce the development of tumors that spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, and liver. In both animals and people, researchers say they believe this was linked with the increased glucose consumption that goes along with the aerobic activity.


Carmit Levy, co-lead researcher and professor in Tel Aviv University’s Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, explains, “Examining the cells of these organs, we found a rise in the number of glucose receptors during high-intensity aerobic activity – increasing glucose intake and turning the organs into effective energy-consumption machines, very much like the muscles. We assume that this happens because the organs must compete for sugar resources with the muscles, known to burn large quantities of glucose during physical exercise. Consequently, if cancer develops, the fierce competition over glucose reduces the availability of energy that is critical to metastasis.”

The researchers say these findings suggest that it may be a good idea to include high-intensity exercise in a workout routine.

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