Bowel Cancer & Exercise

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Australia. It is associated with being a lifestyle condition, where modifiable risk factors are a definite way to decrease the risk. 

Some of the risk factors for bowel cancer include:

  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Excess body fat

Exercise for all cancer is found to be the beginning of a vital therapy to improve immunity and promote cancer-fighting cells. Additionally, exercise can also aid with managing the side effects of various cancer treatments. The research states that it is clear that some activity is better than none and more activity is better than less (Hayes, Spence, Galvao, Newton 2009). Those who are more physically active generally have better survival rates (depending on when the cancer was diagnosed) than those who are inactive.

There is emerging research to suggest that exercise promotes:

  • Immunity to grow cancer-fighting cells
  • Improved aerobic fitness increases recovery from surgery/cancer treatments
  • Reduced risk of picking up colds/ flu
  • Prevent deconditioning of the body that is associated with rest/sedentary behavior e.g. maintain optimal lean mass and decreased fat mass
  • Improved mental health and well-being through the release of endorphins
  •  Allow daily tasks to become easier due to better flexibility and strength

Overall the goal for exercising is to improve the quality of life, and through regular aerobic and resistance training, this can be achieved to help with ease of performing daily tasks. It is recommended to complete both aerobic and resistance training, aim to accumulate 30 mins 3-5 times per week. Having an exercise diary to record the days can also help keep track of how you are feeling and your symptoms after you exercise to ensure any negative symptoms are not linked to exercise.

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with bowel cancer please contact your exercise physiologist and/or dietitian to begin improving those modifiable risk factors.

Hayes,. S, Spence., R, Galvao, D. & Newton, R. 2009, ‘Australian Association for Exercise and Sport Science position stand: Optimising cancer outcomes through exercise’, Journal of Science and Sport Medicine, pp. 428 – 434.

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