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Physical exercise: what combines a good routine against cancer

Publicado em 10 agosto 2021

The practice of physical activity on a regular basis is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle. That lifestyle comprises a handful of habits that are known to help prevent multiple diseases, including various types of cancer. Now, a study has concluded that the combination of exercises can bring the greatest benefits.

Mixing regular muscle-strengthening exercises with aerobic activities into your physical activity routine can help reduce cancer mortality, according to a systematic review of epidemiological studies published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Workouts with squats, rowing, planks, weight training, among others, that aim to strengthen muscles, can reduce the probability of dying from cancer by 14%. When these exercises are combined with aerobic activities, the benefit is even greater, potentially reducing mortality by 28%.

“Physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer, but it was not clear what type of exercise produced the best results“said Leandro Rezende, professor at the Department of Preventive Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine of the Federal University of São Paulo (EPM-UNIFESP), in Brazil.

“In our study,” he continued, “we found evidence that muscle strength training can not only reduce cancer incidence and mortality, but also has an even better effect when associated with aerobic activities, such as walking, running, swimming, and biking“.

Rezende is one of the authors of the meta-analysis in which researchers from Harvard University (United States), the International University of Valencia and the Public University of Navarra (both in Spain), and the University of Santiago de Chile also participated.

The new work is in line with the findings of another published a few days ago in the journal Cancer Research, which concluded that healthy habits such as not smoking or drinking alcohol, low BMI (over 30 is considered obesity), regular exercise and a healthy diet are correlated with a lower incidence of cancer, even in people at high risk genetic.

Physical exercise and types of cancer

Scientific evidence has shown that physical activity in general is associated with a lower risk of breast, endometrial, stomach, throat, kidney and bladder cancer.

The new study in which researchers from different universities worked found that muscle-strengthening activities were associated with a lower incidence of kidney cancer and overall cancer mortality.

No statistically significant correlations were found between muscle strengthening exercises and localized tumors, mainly colorectal, prostate, lung, pancreas, bladder, esophagus, as well as melanoma, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, leukemia and cancers of the digestive system, due to the limited number of studies that addressed that link.

However, the authors concluded that the combined activities strength training and aerobics can provide a greater reduction of total mortality for cancer.

Regular physical activity

The study also corroborated the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the minimum practice of regular aerobic exercise for adults: 150-300 minutes per week if it is of moderate intensity, 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity or an equivalent combination. The WHO also advises doing strengthening exercises twice a week.

“The WHO recommendations are based on a number of health benefits of physical activity, and our review of the literature showed that a lower risk of dying from cancer it’s another benefit, “Rezende said.

The researchers analyzed 12 studies involving 11 cohorts and one case control, with the participation of a total of almost 1.3 million people that were monitored in studies that lasted between 6 and 25 years.

According to Rezende, the concern that triggered the meta-analysis was the fact that most studies on exercise and cancer prevention focused on aerobic activities, while muscle strengthening is often associated with workouts designed to build muscle mass or treat specific health problems, such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular disorders.

In this sense, the analysis shows that strength training twice a week can have a protective effect against cancer.

“Four years ago, we conducted a study that associated strength training with a reduced risk of cancer. In the meantime, other studies have been published and we thought it would be interesting to conduct a systematic review of this literature to assess all the evidence on this relationship“, said the Brazilian researcher.

“However, we went further to show that the benefits of muscle strengthening exercises in terms of reducing cancer incidence and mortality can magnified when combined with aerobic exercises“, he concluded.