New Study Shows That Moderate Exercise Can Enhance Survival in Colorectal Cancer

Experts from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute carried out research to show how low-intensity exercises affect survivability among cancer patients.

Published in the Journal of Oncology, the study shows that even low-intensity exercises like walking for at least four hours a week could lead to almost 20% reduction in the progression of cancer or death.

Metastatic colorectal cancer patients who exercised moderately while on going through chemotherapy had a delayed progression of the cancer. The treatment side effects were also less severe in such patients.

About the Study

  • The study showed that physically active patients had better tolerance towards chemotherapy.
  • At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily was associated with 27% decline in severe toxicities related to treatment.
  • Previous research has revealed that exercising regularly can lower the risk of colon cancer recurrence and death, especially when the cancer has not spread to other areas in the body.
  • Within one month of starting treatment, colorectal cancer patients completed a questionnaire regarding their physical activity for the previous two months. A total of 1,218 patients participated in the study.
  • The researchers said that, although the data are important, validating the results requires further research with a randomized perspective.

Quantifying Physical Activity

Based on the descriptions of patients, the researchers quantified the physical activity using metabolic equivalent task (MET) hours a week. MET-hours are the standard measure commonly used in exercise research studies.

The researchers defined vigorous exercise as any activity that needs six METs or more. Examples of such exercises include:

  • Running
  • Skiing
  • Lap swimming
  • Tennis
  • Biking

Non-vigorous activities, on the other hand, include:

  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Climbing stairs

Conclusions from Data Analysis

  • Analyzing the data showed a statistically important difference in PFS – the duration after a patient filled the questionnaire before the colorectal cancer advanced or the person died.
  • The PFS difference was about 20% in favor of patients who exercised more.
  • Patience that cloaked at least 18 MET-hours of weekly activity had a 15% higher survival than those who had less than three MET-hours a week.

But the difference didn’t have statistical significance, which shows it may have been a result of chance.

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