Recent research shows that cancer survivors who spend a lot of time sitting and doing little physical activity have a much higher risk of death than physically active survivors.
It is estimated that about two-thirds of people affected by cancer are still alive more than five years after diagnosis.
As the population ages, this means that the number of cancer survivors will increase dramatically in the coming years and could reach 70 million people globally by 2050.
This situation poses a particular challenge because cancer survivors are generally at greater risk of re-experiencing the disease during their lifetime (sometimes several decades after completion of treatments) and are also at a higher risk. especially cardiovascular diseases (1).
Therefore, identifying factors that can prevent cancer recurrence and reduce the risk of premature mortality in general is extremely important to maximize survivor survival.
Benefits of Exercise
One aspect of the lifestyle of cancer survivors that can certainly play a role is physical exercise.
Studies show that activity levels are extremely low among cancer survivors, with more than a third of this population not engaging in leisure physical activity and instead spending most of their time there. waking hours in a sitting position. This sedentary lifestyle is absolutely harmful, as many studies have shown that physical activity is associated with improved survival for patients with some cancers.
This relationship is observed both for the exercises performed before the diagnosis of the disease and after the end of the treatments, but seems particularly strong for the levels of exercises performed after the diagnosis. (2).
Therefore, reducing sitting time and increasing physical activity levels seems to be a simple way to improve your chances of surviving cancer.
The positive impact of the exercises is well illustrated by the results of a prospective study, conducted among 1535 cancer survivors, who were followed for a 9-year period. (3).
In this study, researchers looked at three decreased parameters, namely the level of physical activity per week, the number of hours spent in a sitting position per day, and a combination of both.
The results are dramatic and show how essential an active lifestyle is to improving the chances of surviving cancer.
The study reports that in active survivors who do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, the risk of dying or dying from cancer is generally reduced by 70% compared to people who do little or no activity.
The same goes for time spent in a sitting position: compared to survivors who sit for less than 4 hours a day, those who sit for more than 8 hours a day have a higher risk of cancer mortality and overall mortality. increased by 127% and 81%. respectively.
However, it is the combination of sedentary past and physical inactivity that is most damaging, with an increased mortality risk of approximately 500% observed in non-physically active survivors who remain sedentary for more than 8 years. hours a day.
For people who have been treated for cancer, it is possible to drastically increase their chances of survival by adopting an active lifestyle, in which time spent idle is reduced to a minimum and used instead for doing exercises, for example 30 minutes a day of physical activity with simple intensity like brisk walking.
(1) Cao Z et al. The role of healthy lifestyle in cancer incidence and temporary transitions in cardiometabolic disease. JACC CardioOncol. 2021; 3: 663-674.
(2) Patel AV et al. The American College of Sports Medicine reports roundtable on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and cancer prevention and control. Doctor. Science. Sports Exercise 2019; 51: 2391-2402.
(3) Cao C et al. Linking daily sitting time and leisure physical activity with survival among cancer survivors in the US. JAMA Oncol., Published January 6, 2022.