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Acute exercise has beneficial effects on the immune system during prostate cancer

In prostate cancer survivors, a moderate bout of exercise kept the cell count of certain type of immune cells at a normal level, suggesting the exercise is safe for prostate cancer survivors.

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New research published in Experimental Physiology found that in prostate cancer survivors, a moderate bout of exercise kept the cell count of certain type of immune cells at a normal level, suggesting the exercise is safe for prostate cancer survivors. After 24 hours after a moderate bout of cycling, the immune cell count of natural killer (NK) cells, part of the body’s first line of defense, had returned to resting levels. 

Prostate cancer treatments, including androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), have numerous adverse effects that reduce physical function and quality of life. Exercise is recommended for cancer survivors to reduce the side effects of treatment and has shown to have many benefits.   

However, the effects of prostate cancer treatment and acute exercise on the immune system have only been briefly examined. Exercise oncology guidelines were initially based on the responses seen in healthy, older adults. But individuals with cancer have different physiological responses to exercise, many of which we are only just beginning to understand.  

Exercise helps the immune system mobilise by causing NK cells to move into the blood and be transported them to areas of need, such as sites of infection or tumours. At the tissues, these cells move out of circulation and in cancer patients they can the infiltrate the tumour and potentially slow the tumour’s rate of growth. This has been shown very elegantly in animal models but the exercise and immune response in cancer survivors is limited, with only a few studies in prostate cancer.  

The researchers, based at Victoria University in Australia, had volunteers (11 cancer survivors currently receiving ADT treatment, and 14 men with prostate cancer not on ADT, and 8 healthy controls) completed a cycling task to determine their maximal aerobic fitness.

The researchers chose to use a moderate intensity exercise session that was consistent with current exercise oncology guidelines but was also a bout that would be practical for prostate cancer survivors to perform on their own. 

To ensure that the exercise bout used to stimulate the immune system was the same degree of difficulty for everyone, they standardised based on their maximal effort.  

To determine immune function, they obtained blood samples before exercise, immediately after and 2h after they finished cycling. The participants then came back the next day (24h) after exercise, and immune function was assessed again after one night of recovery. They also measured several key hormone levels, including adrenaline and noradrenaline, as they play a role in activating and mobilising the NK immune cells.  

The researchers found that 24 hours after a moderate bout of cycling, the immune cell count of natural killer (NK) cells, part of the body’s first line of defence, had returned to resting levels.  

They also showed that the immune cell mobilisation with exercise does not appear to be significantly altered during prostate cancer treatment, which provides direct evidence that acute exercise that falls within current oncology guidelines also appears to be beneficial for the immune system. 

A limitation of the study is the modest sample size, and also that they examined cytokines and proteins that are related to NK cell function but did not directly assess the killing capacity of the NK cells. 

Erik D Hanson, first author on the study, said: “One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with these men is how willing these men are to help their fellow prostate cancer survivors. Many of them realize that these studies are not likely to benefit them directly. However, they do not hesitate to volunteer and are willing to do just about whatever is asked of them for the collective good.”

Fitness

Study finds moderate-vigorous physical activity is the most efficient at improving fitness

Dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

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In the largest study performed to date to understand the relationship between habitual physical activity and physical fitness, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that higher amount of time spent performing exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) and low-moderate level activity (steps) and less time spent sedentary, translated to greater physical fitness.

“By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual physical activity and detailed fitness measures, we hope that our study will provide important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health across the life course,” explained corresponding author Matthew Nayor, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.

He and his team studied approximately 2,000 participants from the community-based Framingham Heart Study who underwent comprehensive cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPET) for the “gold standard” measurement of physical fitness. Physical fitness measurements were associated with physical activity data obtained through accelerometers (device that measures frequency and intensity of human movement) that were worn for one week around the time of CPET and approximately eight years earlier.

They found dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

According to the researchers, while the study was focused on the relationship of physical activity and fitness specifically (rather than any health-related outcomes), fitness has a powerful influence on health and is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. “Therefore, improved understanding of methods to improve fitness would be expected to have broad implications for improved health,” said Nayor, a cardiologist at Boston Medical Center.

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Fitness

Tips to avoid common running injuries

Injuries are very common among runners. Recent research estimates that 82% of runners will become injured during their running career and up to 90% will experience injury while training for a marathon. Some of the most common include a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinitis, ankle sprain, runners’ knee, and Achilles’ tendonitis.

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Whether training for a marathon or preparing for your first community race, being knocked off course with pain can be hard to handle mentally and physically.

Injuries are very common among runners. Recent research estimates that 82% of runners will become injured during their running career and up to 90% will experience injury while training for a marathon. Some of the most common include a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinitis, ankle sprain, runners’ knee, and Achilles’ tendonitis.

Injury prevention is critical. Here are some safety tips from Dr. Joshua Blomgren, a 15-time Chicago Marathon team physician and sports medicine physician, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:

Don’t over-train

Don’t increase weekly mileage or intensity by more than 10 percent each week. Build up slowly and let a good training schedule determine how much you run.

Invest in good shoes

Go to a specialty running shop to be properly fitted for running shoes and/or orthotics. Replace them every 350-500 miles. Incorrect shoes can affect your gait, leading to injuries in your feet, legs, knees, or hips.

Choose the best running surface

Look for running surfaces that absorb shock. Opt for asphalt over concrete. Find grass or dirt trails, especially for higher mileage. Avoid uneven surfaces and seek paths with slow curves.

Stretch!

Training causes tight muscles, leading to strain and changes in your gait. Commit to a stretching program. Just 5 -10 minutes after each workout can make a big difference.

Strengthen muscles

Runners have tight hip flexors because their quads are overtrained. Strengthen your hamstrings and glutes to reduce chance of injury and abductors, adductors, and core to create stability.

Watch out for heel striking

Heel striking occurs when your feet land in front of you and your heel hits the ground first. This is common among new runners but can lead to injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and joint pain. Land mid-sole with your foot directly underneath your body.

Prioritize posture

Good form means staying upright and keeping your shoulders back and relaxed. Work core exercises into your training and do posture checks every so often. Hold your head right above your shoulders and hips.

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Fitness

Postmenopausal women can dance their way to better health

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

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Women often struggle with managing their weight and other health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, once they transition through menopause. A new study suggests that dancing may effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures. As a result of all these changes, postmenopausal women often suffer from decreased self-image and self-esteem, which are directly related to overall mental health.

Physical activity has been shown to minimize some of the many health problems associated with menopause. The effect of dancing, specifically, has already been investigated with regard to how it improves body composition and functional fitness. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness together in postmenopausal women.

This new study was designed to analyze the effects of dance practice on body composition, metabolic profile, functional fitness, and self-image/self-esteem in postmenopausal women. Although the sample size was small, the study suggested some credible benefits of a three-times-weekly dance regimen in improving not only the lipid profile and functional fitness of postmenopausal women but also self-image and self-esteem.

Dance therapy is seen as an attractive option because it is a pleasant activity with low associated costs and low risk of injury for its practitioners. Additional confirmed benefits of regular dancing include improvement in balance, postural control, gait, strength, and overall physical performance. All of these benefits may contribute to a woman’s ability to maintain an independent, high-quality lifestyle throughout her lifespan.

Study results are published in the article “Dance practice modifies functional fitness, lipid profile, and self-image in postmenopausal women.”

“This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women. In addition to these benefits, women also probably enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from the shared experience of learning something new,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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