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How Cycling and Mountain Biking May Prevent Cancer and Help Cancer Patients

Exercise is good for your health in many ways. Experts agree that most people should be engaging in some level of exercise several times a week. The benefits of exercise for cancer patients has not always been understood. For many years, rest was assumed to be better for those dealing with cancer. That idea is changing, however, as evidence is emerging that exercise may actually prevent cancer development.

Exercise can take many forms, but cycling has many positive benefits. It is fun, easy on the joints, and may reduce cancer risk. Cycling is a great sport if you need a fun and effective method of exercise while dealing with mesothelioma.

Cycling and Cancer Risk

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found a correlation between biking to work and a lower incidence of cancer. The study found a whopping 45 percent lower cancer risk for the cyclists compared to those who commuted via car or public transportation.

While the study was specific to commuting to work, the outcome is clear. An active lifestyle, specifically including cycling, may not prevent cancer, but certainly lowers the risk. There were other health benefits as well. These include lowered risk of heart disease and a lower overall mortality rate. The study also found cycling gave a greater lowered cancer risk over walking.

An earlier study also found that cycling, whether on city streets or a mountain trails, could help reduce cancer risk. Reported in 2010, this study was conducted in Sweden. It found a 34 percent decrease in cancer risk for people who biked a half hour every day. This was a large study, involving more than 40,000 people. Therefore these results are significant, proving that cycling can have a measurable impact on cancer risk. In addition to reduced risk, the study found that those participants who cycled and had cancer had lower mortality rates. These cyclists were also more likely to recover and achieve remission.

Exercise and Cancer Risk

These studies prove how beneficial cycling can be for preventing cancer. However, research has also proven exercise in any form can to some degree reduce cancer risk. Studies have mostly explored specific cancers, like breast or colon cancer. While these studies prove regular exercise has amazing benefits for patients suffering these specific cancers, this doesn’t mean it won’t help reduce the risk of other cancers. This includes mesothelioma.

Research has determined there may be several reasons exercise can help reduce cancer risks. These reasons include lowering levels of hormones that increase the likelihood of cancer development. People who regularly exercise also experience a reduction of inflammation and improved function of the immune system. Exercise also helps prevent obesity which has been directly linked to an increased cancer risk.

Cycling and Mountain Biking for Cancer Patients

Bike riding has been seen to significantly lower cancer risk. However, cycling is also beneficial for people already battling cancer. Exercise is known to help cancer patients going through treatment in several ways. In 2010, the American College of Sports Medicine, along with a panel of medical experts and researchers, issued guidelines recommending that cancer patients should be more active if they are physically able. The benefits of regular exercise for cancer patients include:

  • Preventing muscle wasting.
  • Improving mobility and body function.
  • Improving balance.
  • Lowering the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Relieving dependency on others.
  • Reducing nausea caused by treatment.
  • Reducing fatigue.
  • Controlling weight.
  • Improving self-esteem.
  • Improving social contact.

When it comes to exercise options for cancer patients, cycling is a top choice for many reasons. First, cycling is easy on the joints. For patients with joint pain or limited mobility, cycling allows more physical activity without putting additional stress on the joints. Cycling may even improve joint health by strengthening muscles around the knee.

Cycling and mountain biking also provide cardiovascular exercise while building muscle. The resistance required to pedal helps to prevent muscle loss and develop muscle mass. Cycling also helps develop better balance. It strengthens something called proprioception, the awareness of where you body is in space. Engaging proprioception improves balance.

Another benefit of biking is each individual can vary the intensity. As you begin, you may choose to cycle slowly on a flat path. However, as you develop more balance, muscle, and cardiovascular fitness, you can push the pace, finding hills or terrain that pose a greater challenge. You may even choose to try mountain biking for a fun adventure and challenging change of scenery.

Staying Safe

Before you begin any exercise program, you should talk to your doctor. This is particularly important if you are undergoing cancer treatment.  Exercise may not be recommended for some cancer patients or at certain stages of treatment. Your medical team can tell you if cycling or mountain biking are safe options for you. If you get the go ahead, stay safe with these tips:

  • If you haven’t ridden a bike in a long time or you are worried about balance, start out slowly and on a flat surface that is not too hard.
  • Wear protective gear, including a helmet.
  • Ride during daylight hours, or if you do go out in the dark, wear reflective gear and use a light on the back of your bike.
  • Stick with bicycle paths instead of cycling in the road until you’re ready to try trails and mountain biking.
  • Ride with others in case you get tired or have an accident.
  • Even if you feel strong enough to go hard and long, start slowly and work your way up to more challenging rides.
  • Keep your medical team up to date on your exercise routine and how it makes you feel.

Cycling is a great activity with many health benefits. Research proves it can help reduce cancer risk. More important for those battling devastating cancers like mesothelioma, it can actually help recovery from treatment and provide an improved quality of life.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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