How Do Sports Help Prevent Cancer?

Many people wonder if, among so many other benefits, sport can also help to prevent cancer? This is scientifically proven, and we'll explain everything to you in this article.
How Do Sports Help Prevent Cancer?

Last update: 08 September, 2020

The health benefits of physical exercise are out of the question. Nobody can doubt the improvement in the quality of life that the continuous practice of sports grants. To this, we must add the fact that sports help prevent cancer.

Cancer pathologies are an impactful scourge today: a large part of human mortality is attributed to neoplasms. As life expectancy increases, we"re increasingly prone to developing carcinogenic cells.

Scientific studies in this regard have proven that certain lifestyles are beneficial for cancer prevention. Among them, the practice of a sport.

Consider that, in general, sport can help prevent up to a third of the prevalence of cancer. There"s even research that determines quite accurately that exercising daily reduces the risk of colon cancer, for example.

In the context in which sport also stimulates other habits, such as good nutrition, there"s no doubt about the benefit. Although many cancers don"t have a clear origin, there are others that we do know the origin of, and we can act accordingly to reduce the possibility of suffering from them.

How sports prevent cancer

Several oncological pathologies share risk factors. It"s common to associate being overweight and a sedentary lifestyle to the development of cancer. In this sense, sports help to prevent cancer by reducing body weight and activating mechanisms dependent on movement.

As we anticipated well, sports also help to change habits. Continued physical exercise encourages us to eat better, to develop plans and routines away from unhealthy habits, and even to stop toxic substances such as alcohol or tobacco.

physical activity helps prevent cancer

A better physical condition will lead to a better digestive system. This also reduces the incidence of stomach and colon cancer. Again, sports help in this case because frequent physical activity is usually accompanied by a specific diet.

On the other hand, those investigating the origins of neoplasms have found that chronic inflammation of tissue could be the cause of neoplasms. Taking that into account, sports could be positive for preventing cancer in this case as well, as it"s a natural anti-inflammatory.

Muscles are the tissue that benefits the most from exercise. Continuous exercise forces muscle tissue to remove glucose from the blood to function as fuel. This reduction in blood glucose improves insulin levels and reduces the risk of breast cancer in women, according to studies.

What types of cancer does sport help prevent?

While the benefits of practicing sports for cancer prevention are general, there"s proven research that confirms the preventive power in some types of cancer, in particular:

  • Breast: if a woman exercises more than three hours a week, her risk of breast cancer is reduced by almost 30 percent compared to a sedentary woman. The good thing about this is that the risk is reduced for all women, at any age, regardless of previous health history.
  • Uterus: also another benefit for women, a sports practice reduces the risk of uterine cancer.
  • Lung: the risk of lung cancer is reduced in athletes, helped by the suspension of tobacco that comes in hand with sports.
  • Colon: colon cancer has been widely studied in its relationship with sports. Some studies have found up to a 50 percent reduction in risk for people with regular physical activity. The underlying mechanism that explains this isn"t totally clear, but we can"t ignore the dietary issue that associates with a change in our lifestyle.
sports aid cancer prevention

What types of exercise should I choose?

The practice of any sport helps prevent cancer. However, there are degrees of physical activity that science has proven beneficial in its simplest form. In other words, by performing these routines, you can reduce your risk of cancer.

One of the best-known measures is 150 minutes of exercise per week. It can be running, walking, swimming, using machines at the gym, dancing, or pedaling. It"s important to distribute these minutes throughout the week and achieve a minimum of half an hour each day.

Both aerobic and strength exercises have been shown to be beneficial against cancer. Therefore, a sport such as soccer would be recommended alongside a weight training routine, for example. The combination of both is ideal—the combination of aerobics and bodybuilding.

For those who find it difficult to set time aside for exercise, the option is to include it in your daily routine. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, the bicycle instead of the car, and walking instead of taking a taxi. Whenever possible, try to include physical activity in your lifestyle, it will pay off!

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  • Moore SC, et al. Leisure-time physical activity and risk of 26 types of cancer in 1.44 million adults. JAMA Internal Medicine. 16 de mayo de 2016
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  • Wu Y, Zhang D, Kang S. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2013; 137(3):869-882.