Regular exercise boosts immunity to fight cancer Researchers at University of Bath

Regular exercise boosts immunity to fight cancer Researchers at University of Bath

Studies from leading physiologists at the University of Bath found that regular exercise can help our bodies to fight off diseases, including certain cancer. Prize Fellow and health researcher at Bath, Dr. Campbell is a specialist in exercise immunology and oncology at the University of Bath. He is working with doctors internationally to study whether immune responses which arise in response to exercise might be harnessed in the future to prevent or even treat certain cancers.

Dr. Campbell’s focus has been to study the effects of exercise on blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, bone marrow cancer, and leukemia. These typically impact older adults aged over 60. While the prevalence of myeloma is relatively lower in India compared to the West, recent evidence suggests it is gradually rising in particular in cities. He has been testing his research on older populations who have received cancer diagnoses – literally by getting them to exercise and then studying the effects. According to his research findings, the more active we are, the less susceptible we are to certain forms of cancer developing.

A proof-of-concept study he led which focused on the early stage of multiple myeloma showed that older adults could tolerate exercise well. A similar study underway at the moment is showing the same thing in early-stage leukemia. The next step will be to see if long-term exercise training prevents these early-stage cancers from progressing. He claims that part of the reason for this is due to the fact that exercise improves our immunological response by priming the immune system. Additionally, it’s because exercising helps people lose weight. His research has highlighted the strong links between obesity and certain cancers, and this may be because obesity negatively affects our immune system.

Dr. Campbell stresses the fact that being physically active won’t necessarily stop cancers from developing in the first place. But the more we exercise, the greater the likelihood of slowing down cancer growth or its progression he says. He further adds, “Given the increased prevalence of cancers globally, there is a great need to get people moving more, to reduce the risk of cancer and also to boost cancer survival rates. This is particularly important in places like India where population growth and an expanding older demographic will increase cancer cases, coupled with the fact that the majority of the population are not physically active.”

A benchmark study by Dr. Campbell in 2018 highlighted how exercise can help the immune system find and deal with pathogens, and in the long term, regular exercise slows down changes that happen to the immune system with aging, therefore reducing the risk of infections.

He recommends regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, running or cycling, with the aim of achieving 150 minutes per week. More vigorous exercise is most beneficial, but if the capacity to exercise is restricted due to a health condition or disability, his message is clear: ‘move more’ and believe that ‘something is better than nothing’.

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