The regular practice of muscle strength exercises associated with aerobic activities can significantly reduce cancer mortality, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
The authors carried out a systematic review of epidemiological studies on the subject and concluded that exercising such as the board, squats and rowing reduces mortality from the disease by 14%. When these exercises are combined with others of the aerobic type, the benefit is even better: 28% fewer deaths.
“Physical activity has been linked to reducing the risk of several types of cancer. However, it was still unclear which type of exercise would work best. In this study, we found evidence that muscle strengthening activities not only can reduce cancer incidence and mortality, but also have an even better effect when associated with aerobic activities such as running, walking, swimming or cycling”, says Leandro Rezende, professor at São Paulo School of Medicine, Federal University of São Paulo (EPM-Unifesp).
The work is the result of a Scientific Initiation Scholarship granted to Wilson Nascimento and had the collaboration of researchers from Harvard University (United States), International University of Valencia (Spain), Public University of Navarra (Spain) and University of Santiago (Chile ).
Epidemiological studies based on population data have shown that physical activity in general reduces the risk of seven types of cancer: breast, colon, endometrium, stomach, esophagus, kidney and bladder. Unifesp’s analysis identified that the practice of muscle strength exercise can also reduce the risk of kidney cancer by 26%.
The association between muscle strength exercise and other types of cancer (colon, prostate, lung, lymphoma, pancreas, multiple myeloma, bladder, esophagus, rectum, melanoma, leukemia and cancers of the digestive system) was inconclusive due to the limited number of studies.
The Unifesp research supports the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), which proposes for adults the practice of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity (or a combination equivalent of intensities). Strengthening exercises twice a week are also recommended.
“WHO is based on a number of health benefits provided by physical activity. And we saw, among the studies analyzed, that reducing the risk of cancer is one more of these benefits”, says Rezende to Agência FAPESP.
The analysis showed the existence of a protective effect against cancer by performing strength exercises twice a week.
The researchers analyzed a total of 12 studies, being 11 cohorts (involving large groups of volunteers followed for a predetermined period) and a case-control (retrospective observational study, that is, analyzing past records), with the participation of a total of 1,297 .620 individuals, who were followed in projects that lasted from six to 25 years.
Rezende, who was a FAPESP grantee in doctoral and postdoctoral research, has carried out analyzes based on population data to identify associations between physical activity, nutrition and the reduction of chronic diseases, especially cancer, as well as impact modeling studies of interventions and public policies aimed at healthy eating and the promotion of physical activity in the reduction of diseases and health expenses.
The researcher explains that most studies on physical activity and cancer prevention tend to focus on aerobic exercise. On the other hand, research related to strength exercises usually assesses muscle mass gain or specific factors, such as blood pressure regulation and cardiovascular outcomes.
“Four years ago we did a study that associated strength exercise with reduced risk of cancer. In the meantime, other studies have been published and we find it interesting to carry out a systematic review of this literature in order to assess the totality of evidence on this relationship. With the analysis, however, we were able to go further and show that the benefits of muscle strength exercise in reducing the incidence and mortality of cancer can be increased when associated with the practice of aerobic physical activities”, he says.