In September 2020, Esther Shaw, 43, underwent surgery to remove a lump from her left breast. The operation — a mammoplasty — marked the end of six months’ treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, and the London mum-of-two has since overhauled her lifestyle and thrown herself into an intense exercise regimen.
“I kept running throughout my chemo,” she says. “Since recovering from my operation, I’ve resorted to lifting weights in a big way and also playing netball outdoors once a week. I have a personal trainer, Jordan Holtom, who puts me through my paces with three-hour sessions a week including lots of squats and deadlifts. , and I balance that with running and playing netball outdoors once a week.”
She’s now cancer-free, but Esther says even hearing the word “metastasis”—where cancer cells move around the body to form tumors away from the primary site—is enough to break her out in a cold sweat.
However, she was encouraged by a recent study of 3,000 participants from Tel Aviv University, published in the journal Cancer Research in November. It found that high-intensity aerobic exercise could reduce the risk of metastatic cancer by 72 percent, compared to people who did not exercise.
The study’s findings have implications for all of us, not just people recovering from cancer. Simply put, the authors discovered that high-intensity exercise has a protective effect, causing organs and muscles to burn glucose more effectively, which means cancer cells lose out in the battle for sugar.
Study author Professor Carmit Levy told The Daily Telegraph: “We wondered why cancer doesn’t metastasize to muscles: there is something about muscle cells that protects them. So we got mice to engage in physical activity and specifically examined the organs that usually host metastasis – the lymph nodes, the lung and the liver.” “After eight weeks of aerobic activity, we discovered that not only were the muscles stronger, but these organs were also modified and changed their metabolic features. They became super organs, which were more efficient at absorbing glucose.”
The researchers then looked at the epidemiological data of 3,000 participants who recorded their physical activity over a 20-year period. What they found was that physical activity provided a protective effect against metastatic cancer in 72 percent [of cases]. They concluded that the body adjusts itself with prolonged exercise.
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