Consider a typical cancer patient: we will call her Val. She is in her mid-50’s, a bit overweight, and hasn’t been feeling well for a few months. She goes to her doctor, gets some tests, and learns she has advanced cancer. She is told she should start chemotherapy right away. What does she do?
Being a typical patient, she follows the doctor’s program. She wasn’t feeling all that great before; now she is feeling worse from the chemo. Friends gather around her and offer to bring her food, do some chores for her, and let her rest as much as possible. Everyone, including her doctor says to rest and conserve her energy, which is needed to fight the cancer. Val is depressed and fearful, spending time in front of the TV trying to take her mind off her condition. She is going downhill, both mentally and physically.
This is the picture of far too many people in the world, both men and women. Before getting the cancer diagnosis they were probably not in great health, not on a great diet, getting marginal sleep, and doing maybe a little exercise. After the cancer diagnosis, none of these improve — especially exercise. They don’t feel like exercising, they see no benefit in it, and everyone tells them to rest and save their energy. That is unfortunate, because exercise, done correctly, will help return them to health rather than take energy that they need to fight the cancer.
This isn’t a secret, and doctors in particular should know this if they are keeping up with the research. Some do. Exercise, even though it uses energy, returns more than it takes — both short and long term. In the short term, it raises oxygen levels throughout the body, invigorating the immune system and encroaching on cancer’s preferred low oxygen environment. Long term, many positive metabolic changes happen with regular exercise, not only in oxygen levels, but in hormones and epigenetic cellular responses.
Exercise is “good stress” because, unlike what we typically consider to be stress, exercise pushes the body to improve itself. All stress is pressure for change, and exercise presses in a healthy direction. Even in cases of advanced cancer, most of the cells in the body are not cancer, and they will benefit from good stress. Not so for the cancer cells, for which exercise is a bad stress, not a good one, because it robs them of some of their preferred environment.
Research is changing the narrative…
Statistical research has pointed to cancer-thwarting benefits of exercise for some time, but as science is increasingly able to look at specific metabolic pathways, genetic responses, and other details of body metabolism and cancer response, studies are also showing why exercise is beneficial. In one study, published in Cancer Research, researchers from Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC report some of the benefits of exercise for cancer patients: “For example, exercise reduces tumor hypoxia and improves vascular maturity and perfusion…” This points to the oxygen-raising aspect of exercise. Also they note that it “promotes the extravasation of cytotoxic immune cells (NK cells, CD8+ T cells, and type 1 macrophages) and infiltration of these cells into the tumor.” In other words, it pushes immune attack cells further into the tumor, even while the tumor attempts to reject them.
But the researchers didn’t stop with cancer, reviewing an animal study where daily moderate exercise increased the influenza survival rate by twice that of the control group. This study, published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, also noted that over-exercise increased mortality. The moderate exercise was conducted for 20-30 minutes daily, while the excessive exercise was forced to 2.5 hours daily. So to be fair, exercise can be overdone; that’s why it’s important to get the proper exercise level to promote health. Nonetheless, they observed that appropriate exercise is vital in “maintaining a healthy immune system and controlling infections and chronic inflammation-associated disease, including cancer.”
The immune system is quite complex, composed of many different cell types with different roles. To better define the impact of the immune system on cancer tumors when energized by regular exercise, in an article published in Sports (Basel), researchers from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece reviewed the various immune system cells and their impact. That’s critical because cancer attempts to utilize some immune cells for its benefit, and hide from or reject immune cells that are attempting to kill it. Cells that act against tumors, the “cytotoxic” immune cells, include natural killer cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CD3+ and CD8+). Natural Killer (NK) cells are strongly anti-tumor, and exercise triggers NK mobilization and increased numbers of NK cells in circulation during exercise. In one reviewed study, tumor growth was reduced by 60% in exercising with NK cells, against the control group without NK cells doing the same exercises. T Lymphocytes CD3+/CD8+ are also anti-tumor and various studies show greater penetration of these lymphocytes into tumors with regular exercise.
Of equal interest is the impact of exercise on the immune system cells that cancer can use to its advantage: macrophages, neutrophils, and regulatory T lymphocytes (Tregs). Reviewed studies showed exercise decreased the number of these cells in tumors. Macrophages in the tumor environment secrete epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family ligands which then trigger production of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and NF-kB, and these contribute to tumor development. Neutrophils can be anti-tumor in some forms of cancer, while tumor promoting in others, and the researchers suggest that the key to this differentiation may be in the two behavior profiles, or phenotypes of neutrophils: N1 and N2. In the studies the researchers reviewed, exercise increased the number of neutrophils during and for several hours after exercise, and the overall effect was to impede tumor growth. Finally, Tregs are immune regulatory cells which are immunosuppressive, and in the reviewed studies, exercise appeared to reduce Treg activity, allowing greater immune system anti-tumor activity.
In summation of their review of studies, the lead researcher made this statement: “Exercise is shown to improve infiltration of tumor-suppressive immune cells and to reduce infiltration of tumor-progressive immune cells, preventing tumor growth.”
There is a special type of cytokines that are released by skeletal muscle fibers called “myokines.” Skeletal muscles are the muscles you use to move, as opposed to heart or intestinal muscles, so exercise uses them heavily. The myokines are anti-cancer and anti-tumor, and elevated during exercise. In a study published in Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, researchers from Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA, Australia ran a six-month study of men with advanced prostate cancer to determine how effective exercise-induced myokines were in retarding cancer progress. They observed that each session of high-intensity exercise caused a 17% reduction in growth of tumor cells during the exercise. This is in addition to the benefits of exercise shown in other studies, and is directly attributable to the use of the skeletal muscles.
It’s for everyone
It’s important to destroy the myth that exercise is harmful for the sick. The disease will affect what is the appropriate type and level of exercise in each situation, but not the fact that appropriate exercise is beneficial. That myth deprives people of exercise when they most need it. These studies show that exercise is vital in suppressing cancer progression when done regularly and in moderation.
Exercise helps deter cancer progression for the same reasons that it helps prevent cancer in the first place. Cancer is fluid in both directions, always because of the environment of the cells which are trying to find the best way to survive and thrive under current conditions. Exercise improves sugar management, overall oxygenation, waste product removal, and general stress reduction — these are all determining factors of the cell’s environment. Exercise helps every body, regardless of level of health or disease.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
To get the immune system to the tumor you need to move fluids: blood fluid and lymphatic fluid. These fluids do not flow very well, even stagnate, if you don’t exercise. Where the immune system secretes cytokines to command and kill tumors, the muscular system uses myokines to do the same thing, and myokines are only secreted with exercise.
In summary, the research stated these points about exercise:
- It promotes the movement of cytotoxic immune cell (NK cells, CD8+ T cells, and type 1 macrophages) into the tumor.
- Daily moderate — not excessive — exercise doubled the flu survival rate.
- Cytotoxic immune cells, including natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes, are the immune cells that kill cancer cells. Natural Killer (NK) cells are strongly anti-tumor, and exercise triggers NK mobilization and increases the number of NK cells in circulation during exercise, causing up to a 60% decrease in tumor growth.
- In advanced cancer, increased high intensity exercise decreases tumor growth by 17%. This exercise also decreases the major growth hormone associated with cancer growth: IGF-1. This is very impressive because not only did the immune system attack and kill the cancer tumor cells with the exercise, but it also decreased the secretion of the primary growth factor in cancer, IGF-1, which inhibits tumor growth significantly.
So you can start to see how difficult it is to get well in conventional medicine when you have a diagnosis of cancer. First they’re doing chemotherapy and radiation, both of which decrease energy, then decreasing exercise and activity which increases inflammation and toxicity. This is the exact opposite of what you want in a healthy, healing body. Instead you strive to decrease inflammation and decrease toxicity while increasing exercise, which increases circulation of immune cells.
What these studies did not say in any depth is that the exercise also increases oxygen to the cells, increases nutrients to the cells, increases waste products eliminated from the cells — and by increasing oxygen, you decrease the primary mechanism of cancer metabolism, which is anaerobic, meaning it works best in a no or low oxygen environment.
This is the double-edged sword of exercise. This is why it’s vital in healing from cancer.
The other powerful benefit from exercise is that it increases muscle mass and decreases fat mass. The reason we want to increase muscle cells is because muscle cells consume sugar or glucose — the same food that cancer prefers. So, if you’re growing more muscle, the muscle is eating the glucose, starving the cancer from getting its food source. Very powerful.
Next, fat cells secrete inflammatory molecules that stimulate the immune system to produce inflammation, which will make tumors grow much faster. Fat cells also secrete estrogen, which is a growth hormone not just for female cancers, but for all male cancers also.
Exercise is critical to your health and to your healing whether you have cancer or not. But if you do, it’s even more important. This is why our Revolution New Medicine® protocol includes very specific exercises to strengthen the immune system with a proven, clinically-documented program that boosts immune function and decreases tumor growth. Not all exercise is the best when you have cancer: that is why we have researched and put together the simplest, most effective, and most time-efficient exercise program for patients that have major health challenges.
So remember: when the body is sick, it still needs everything that restores health, and needs it even more. It also does not want anything that decreases health and increases inflammation and toxicity, so whether your diagnosis is advanced cancer, or you’re just starting to feel older — or you want to prevent all of that — no time is like the present to start exercising. Certain forms of exercise should be done daily, whereas other forms are fine three times a week.
Always remember, life is motion. Without movement, the body will die. So get up, go for a walk, walk up and down the stairs, and start moving; your cells will thank you greatly.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.