Moderate Exercise May Make Cancer Treatments More Effective

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News from Kansas State University

newsKansas State University kinesiology research offers encouraging information for cancer patients: A brisk walk or a slow jog on a regular basis may be the key to improved cancer treatments.

Brad Behnke, associate professor of exercise physiology, and collaborators have shown that moderate exercise on a regular basis enhances tumor oxygenation, which may improve treatments in cancer patients. Now Behnke is using a $750,000 American Cancer Society grant to study moderate exercise as a way to make radiation treatments more effective, especially for difficult-to-treat tumors.

“If we can increase the efficacy of radiation treatment, then the patient’s prognosis is enhanced,” Behnke said. “An intervention like exercise has almost universally positive side effects versus other treatments that can have deleterious side effects. Exercise is a type of therapy that benefits multiple systems in the body, and may permanently alter the environment within the tumor.”

The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health recommends exercise for cancer patients and cancer survivors, but little research shows what happens within the tumors during such exercise. That prompted Behnke to combine his expertise in integrative physiology with cancer research. He also has received support from the university’s Johnson Cancer Research Center.

“I became interested in finding out what happens within the tumor during and after exercise as a means to enhance treatment outcomes,” Behnke said.

For the latest research, Behnke is using prostate cancer tumor models to find ways to enhance oxygen delivery to tumors. When a tumor is hypoxic, or has low oxygen, it is often very aggressive, Behnke said. Because oxygen is a “radiosensitizer,” it helps destroy cancer cells. As a result, low-oxygen tumors often are resistant to traditional cancer therapies, such as radiation therapy, and interventions, such as concentrated oxygen breathing, are used to get more oxygen to the tumor before treatment.

“If we manipulate all the systems in the body — the lungs, the heart and the blood vessels — with exercise, we can take advantage of the dysfunctional vasculature in the tumor and enhance blood flow to the tumor,” Behnke said. “The tumor becomes the path of least resistance for the elevated cardiac output of exercise, which results in a substantial increase in tumor oxygenation during and after exercise.”

But the key is moderate exercise, said Behnke. Too little exercise may have no effect, but too much exercise may have a negative effect and may shut down blood flow to the tumor region or impair the immune system.

Moderate exercise is an activity that uses 30 to 60 percent of someone’s aerobic capacity, Behnke said. The activity is nonstrenuous and is something that most people can perform, such as a brisk walk or a slow jog.

Research also has shown that moderate exercise can help cancer patients counteract some of the side effects of treatment — such as low blood count, fatigue, cachexia and lost muscle mass — which has led to many researchers labeling this as “aerobic exercise therapy” for patients with cancer, Behnke said.

“There really aren’t any negative side effects of moderate-intensity exercise,” Behnke said. “Exercise is often prescribed to improve the side effects of cancer and treatment, but what exercise is doing within the tumor itself is likely beneficial as well.”

Behnke and collaborators have published their exercise and cancer research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

At Kansas State University, Behnke is collaborating with Mary Lynn Higginbotham, assistant professor of clinical sciences; Katie Heinrich, assistant professor of kinesiology; and David Poole, professor of kinesiology. The American Cancer Society grant, “Modulation of tumor oxygenation to enhance radiotherapy,” also involves University of Florida researchers in tumor microenvironment biology.

Moderate Exercise Won’t Fight Obesity

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joggingFrom Your Health Journal…..”A great article written by Matthew Mientka in Medical Daily out of Australia entitled Moderate Exercise Won’t Fight Obesity–But Experts Advise ‘Incidental’ Bouts Of Activity. New research suggests that moderate exercise won’t help most people avoid becoming overweight or obese-or to keep weight off once they’ve lost it. Obesity is on the rise all over the world, as sedentary lifestyle is replacing physical activity – technology is more popular than playing outside, diets are less nutritious and larger in size, and a host of other concerns. Now, in Australia, it is now internationally recommended that 45 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity daily physical activity is the minimum required… without reduction in current energy intake. In Australia alone, 14 million Australians fall into the overweight or obese category. Please visit the Medical Daily web site (link provided below) to read the complete article.”

From the article…..

Moderate exercise won’t help most people avoid becoming overweight or obese-or to keep weight off once they’ve lost it.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council mentioned the obvious, that a high-calorie, high-fat Western diet combined with decreasing levels of physical activity has put more people at risk of health ailments. But experts now recommend 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day for formerly obese people.

“In the current environment of abundant availability, promotion and consumption of energy-dense food, it is now internationally recommended that 45 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity daily physical activity is the minimum required… without reduction in current energy intake,” the Australian government reported.

However, experts temper their recommendations to avoid discouraging people from giving up entirely. Dr. Amanda Lee, chairperson of the health organization’s dietary guidelines committee, said she wouldn’t want to discourage anyone with time for only 30 minutes or so of exercise per day.

“At this stage the national activity guidelines still recommend 30 minutes of moderate activity a day,” she said. “Even then, not even 50 percent of the population is managing that, so I would be reluctant to tell everyone that they now need to find an hour.”

Lee said Westerners must make either substantial dietary changes or significantly increase levels of physical activity.

“There’s no denying we have a huge problem with what’s called energy balance. Simply speaking we are eating way too much poor-quality, energy-dense food for the amount of daily exercise we’re getting,” Lee says. “The reality is if finding the extra time in your day to burn off that energy through exercise is just not possible, then it’s important you eat less food and of better quality.”

To read the full article…..Click here