Beating bowel cancer together

Increased physical activity linked to improved quality of life after bowel cancer

Thursday 8 July 2021

Low-to-moderate activity levels can significantly improve quality of life after bowel cancer, according to two new studies published this week.

The first, led by Dr Martijn Bours of Maastricht University and published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, studied nearly 400 people who had recovered from bowel cancer, for two years to see how levels of physical activity impacted their quality of life and fatigue. The results show that a combination of leading a less sedentary lifestyle and doing more physical activity are beneficial and can improve quality of life and levels of extreme tiredness (fatigue).

Importantly, the research shows that even small changes, like reducing the time you sit still, doing gentle housework, or standing up to take phone calls, can still have a positive impact. This is especially important for those who can't manage more vigorous activities, such as running or swimming.

The second research study, led by Professor Matty Weijenberg and published in Scientific Reports, found that high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in people recovered from bowel cancer is linked with anti-inflammatories in the body. Growing evidence suggests that reducing inflammation in the body could have the potential to not only prevent cancers, but also improve how current treatments work. This may explain the health benefits of physical activity after bowel cancer treatment and supports its future integration into post-treatment care.

Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, says: "These new studies further support the evidence that physical activity can improve the quality of life for people after they've had treatment for bowel cancer.

"Around 268,000 people in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer, and while patients may not feel like being active when recovering from treatment, this research shows even engaging in gentle physical activity can have a positive impact. You should always check with your healthcare team or physiotherapist before starting any vigorous physical activity after bowel cancer treatment.

"Physical activity and a healthier lifestyle are also important in helping to reduce your risk of bowel cancer. Making simple changes to your diet like having plenty of wholegrains and fibre, avoiding processed meat and limiting red meat, being of a healthy body weight, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol can help stack the odds against developing bowel cancer."

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