Can exercise decrease tumor growth?
Katelyn Sander

Can exercise decrease tumor growth?

Living Well

While it’s unclear exactly how, exercise seems to be beneficial in relation to cancer risk and outcomes. There is now compelling evidence that exercise may decrease tumor growth by supporting immune system function.

We know exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and body composition, regulates hormone levels, and speeds digestion. These benefits, and others, are associated with lower cancer incidence and more favourable outcomes including longevity and quality of live in cancer patients.

I use the word associated, because it is still unclear exactly what mechanisms are at play in relation to exercise and it’s protective and positive effects. 

In some cases, the human body is unable to eliminate tumor cells because the immune system can’t detect cancer cells. The recent study I cited above demonstrates – in mice – that intense exercise increases immune system function in such a way that tumor growth is reduced and even stopped. They found that exercise changed the way T-cells behaved in the mice. And this favourable change seemed to have lasting effects. The blood in the physically active vs sedentary mice contained significantly higher levels of lactate – and the scientists speculate it is this that affected the immune system response, which in turn impacted the cancer cells.

Of course, exercise is complex. Cancer is complex. And how exactly exercise impacts cancer remains unclear.

To me, this is still exciting and interesting news. It prompts me to think about the types of exercise that significantly increase lactate levels: High intensity exercise. (Remember on Thursday we explored how this type of exercise seems to impact memory in a favourable manner as well.)

So, get your heart rate up. Take a deep breath (or a thousand) and push yourself into those training zones that are incredibly challenging. More and more there is evidence that – despite the incredible discomfort – there may be so much to be gained.

Check out our Trainer Moves of the Day for some practical advice!


Inspiration of the Day

“We found that exercise itself can modify cytotoxic T-cell metabolism, and that exercise-induced effects on tumor growth are dependent on cytotoxic T-cell activity.” – Helene Rundqvist et al., October 23, 2020.

Live Workout of the Day

Happy Monday! Penny’s workout is here to brighten your lunchtime!


Join Penny today for her Total Body Conditioning workout! Challenge your cardio and strengthen your muscles from head to toe with this incredibly effective no-nonsense bodyweight training.

Recommended equipment: a chair

*Modified moves will be shown throughout the workout if you don’t have the equipment.

Join Penny at 12:00pm (30 minutes) from your own living room.

Click here to join the workout.

Meeting ID: 864 5295 2847
Password: 991724


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If you have questions about our virtual live workouts, please reach out to Lauren.

Trainer Moves of the Day

Lactate is a byproduct that builds up in the blood during high intensity workouts. You’re essentially trying to seriously challenge your muscles and your cardiorespiratory system simultaneously. You push your body to the point where you are unable to sustain the intensity and either have to slow down or sit down to recover before you launch head first back into the next set or interval.

It’s uncomfortable. But it can be done effectively in a relatively short period of time. And significant benefits – including potentially suppressing tumor growth! – can be incurred with only two intense workouts per week. And the activity can be pretty much anything: stair climbing, resistance training, cycling, running, swimming, and skiing are all great examples.

I’m inspired by the nasty weather today (it’s Sunday as I write this) and offer two examples of HIIT protocols that can be done indoors:

12-15 minute full body workout:

Warm up for 3 minutes.

Perform a challenging resistance exercise for 30 seconds.  Rest for 10 seconds. 

Repeat the above (30:10) with 7-10 different exercise.

Cool down for 2 minutes.

Exercise Ideas:
  1. High knees or Running in place
  2. Quadruped or Plank rows
  3. Body weight Squats
  4. Side planks repeats
  5. Step ups
  6. Pushups (floor or elevated)
  7. Reverse Lunges
  8. Front Plank Repeats
  9. Jumping Jacks
  10. Chest Press with Hip Bridges

Stationary Bike Workout:

Warm up for 3-5 minutes
30 seconds HARD (RPE 8), 30 seconds MODERATE (RPE 5-6) x 4
Active Recovery (RPE 3) 1-2 minutes
60 seconds HARD (RPE 8), 30 seconds MODERATE (RPE 5-6) x 4
Active Recovery (RPE 3) 1-2 minutes
120 seconds HARD (RPE 8), 60 seconds Active Recover (RPE 3) x 3
Cool down for 2 additional minutes

For questions about today’s Trainer Moves you can connect directly with Meg here.


Do you have a “Something of the Day” you’d like us to share?! Email Meg.

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