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

Exercise is good for many aspects of health, and all experts agree that most people should be engaging in some appropriate level of exercise several times a week. For cancer patients, the benefits of exercising has not always been a given. It has long been assumed that rest is better. That idea is changing, though, as is the finding that exercise may even prevent cancer.

There are many ways to get exercise, but cycling has a lot of positive benefits, from being fun to being easy on the joints, and being proven to actually reduce cancer risk. If you are looking for a good way to get more exercise, to reduce your cancer risks, or to get gentle exercise while you battle mesothelioma or another type of cancer, cycling may be a great place to start.

Cycling and Cancer Risk

A recent study was reported in the British Medical Journal that found a correlation between commuting to work by bike and a lower incidence of cancer. The study found a whopping 45 percent lower risk of cancer for people who biked to work as compared to those who commuted via car or public transportation, or in other words did not have an active commute.

While the study was specific to getting to and from work, the outcome is clear: being active, and specifically cycling, may not prevent cancer but it does lower the risk by a significant amount. There were other health benefits too, including a lowered risk of heart disease, and a lower overall mortality rate. The study found that cycling conferred a greater benefit for lowering cancer risk than walking.

An earlier study also found that riding a bike, whether a road bike on city streets or a mountain bike on the trails, could help reduce the risk of cancer. This study was reported in 2010 and was conducted in Sweden. It found a 34 percent decrease in risk of cancer in people who biked just a half an hour every day. The study was big, involving more than 40,000 people, so the results are important and show that cycling really can have a measurable impact on cancer risk. In addition to the reduced risk, the study found that those participants who had cancer and cycled had lower mortality rates and were more likely to recover and go into remission.

Exercise and Cancer Risk

These studies point out how beneficial it can be to cycle in preventing cancer, but research has also proven that any type of exercise can reduce cancer risks to some degree. Studies have mostly looked at specific cancers, like breast or colon cancer, and found that regular exercise reduces the risk of developing them. This doesn’t mean that exercise does not help reduce the risk of other types of cancers, like mesothelioma, just that the research has focused on more common cancer types.

The research has determined that there may be several reasons that exercise can help reduce cancer risks. These include lowering hormone levels that make cancer more likely to develop, preventing obesity which is linked to cancer, reducing inflammation, and improving the functioning of the immune system.

Cycling and Mountain Biking for Cancer Patients

Riding a bike has been seen to lower the risk of cancer significantly, but it has also been proven to be beneficial for people who are already fighting a cancer battle. Exercise is now known to help cancer patients going through treatment in several ways. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine, along with a panel of medical experts and researchers, issued guidelines in 2010 recommending that cancer patients, if able, should be more active. The benefits for patients include:

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

Among the many types of exercise in which a cancer patient might engage, cycling is a top choice for many reasons. One is that it is easy on the joints. For patients with joint pain or limited mobility, cycling can allow for exercise that doesn’t put additional stress on the joints. It may even improve joint health joint by strengthening the muscles around the knee.

Cycling and mountain biking are also good ways to get cardiovascular exercise and build muscle. The resistance required to pedal helps develop muscle mass or prevent muscle loss. Riding a bike helps develop better balance. It strengthens something called proprioception, the ability to be aware of where your body is in space. Engaging this ability improves balance.

Another great thing about biking is that the intensity can be varied by individual. As you start out you may choose to cycle slowly on a flat path, but as you develop more balance, muscle, and cardiovascular fitness, you can push the pace and find hills for a greater challenge. You may even want to try mountain biking for more challenge and great scenery and a fun adventure.

Staying Safe

Before you try any kind of exercise, especially if you are undergoing cancer treatment, it is important to talk to your doctor. For some cancer patients or at certain stages of treatment, exercise may not be recommended. Your medical team will be able to tell you if it is safe to exercise and 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 with others in case you get fatigued or have an accident.
  • 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.
  • Even if you feel strong enough to go long and hard, 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 for just about anyone to enjoy for better health. But, with research proving that it can help reduce cancer risks and provide benefits for cancer patients, it’s a great type of exercise for those battling mesothelioma and other cancers.

Page edited by Dave Foster

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.

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