Role of exercise in reducing the risk of lung cancer.

by Team Onco

There are plenty of reasons to exercise regularly. From keeping ourselves active in our daily tasks to kick-off the laze in us, the role of exercise for a healthy lifestyle is significant. 

Role of exercise in reducing the risk of lung cancer

Lung cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of cancer worldwide. The number of cases and associated risk factors are continuously increasing, and finding ways to reduce its impact even at a nominal level would be worthwhile. In this article, let us discuss on how exercise can help to positively reduce the risks of lung cancer.

How does exercise lower the risk?

According to a study, the increase in cardiorespiratory fitness levels (CRF) was directly found to influence the risk of lung cancer. For every 1 MET increase in cardiorespiratory fitness, the risk of lung cancer is down by 10%, and cancer mortality is reduced by 13%.

The Metabolic Equivalent for Task (MET) is a unit that estimates the amount of energy used by the body during physical activity, as compared to resting metabolism. The unit is standardized and hence can apply to people of varying body weights and compare different activities. MET can be expressed in terms of oxygen use or kilocalories (what you commonly think of as calories).

At rest or sitting idly, the average person expends 1 MET, which equals: 1 kilocalorie per kilogram of body weight times minutes of activity. 

The harder your body works during any given activity, more oxygen is consumed and the higher will be the MET level.

MET’s relation to activity –

1 – 3 MET levels – Light intensity activities like casual walks, climbing up stairs, etc.,

3 – 6 MET levels – Moderately intense activities like brisk walking, jogging, aerobics, swimming, and cycling.

6+ MET levels – Vigorous intense activities like running, fast dancing and aerobics, court sports such as basketball, singles tennis and more.

Moderate CRF (5-10  MET levels) showed a 47% reduction in the risk of lung cancer and a 58% reduction in cancer mortality. People with high CRF (10+ MET levels) showed a 65% reduction in the incidence of lung cancer and a 76% reduction in lung cancer mortality. 

For people who have already been diagnosed with lung cancer, moderate to high CRF levels showed higher base survival time than those with low CRF levels. Elimination of the risk factor of low CRF could reduce lung cancer incidence by 8.7% and mortality by 18.5%.

A Short Guide To Exercising.

The above study is an evidence that exercise has positive benefits in reducing the risk of lung cancer, both in patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer and those without malignancies. If you have never exercised or if it has been a long time, here are a few ideas to organize your activity that may help you witness optimal results.

Making a plan

It is important to start with a plan till your routine gets a hang of it. Let your exercising goals be modest at the start, as you allocate enough time in your daily schedule.

Gradual approach

If you haven’t exercised in a long time, it is important to know what to expect from your body. Starting with a moderate intensity of walking or jogging for 20 minutes a day (3 – 5 times a week) will start to show an increase in your CRF levels.

Increase your pace

Once exercise becomes a mindset, you might want to do more. If you have started by walking or jogging 20 minutes a day, you can increase it to 30 minutes a day and so on. Increasing the pace also means increasing the intensity, like starting to run instead of jog.


Occasionally exercising or showing irregularities could hardly help. Make sure you follow your schedule daily even if it starts with minimal time and exercise.

Exercising your lungs

There are few breathing exercises that you could follow to keep your lungs healthy. Take long, slow deep breaths or blow through a straw into a glass of water. Doing this 5 – 10 times a day can remove excess mucus from your lungs and keep it healthy.

Including few practical ways

Few practices like taking a 10-minute walk (slow) post-dinner, avoiding elevators and taking the stairs when possible, gardening, and dancing a little for your favorite songs could also help.

Taking regular walks/exercise sessions with your friends and loved ones could encourage each other to adhere to the plan. 

To make a clearer exercise plan that suits your body conditions, you might have to talk to your doctor with these questions in mind.

– What is the frequency and intensity of your exercise?

– I have a heart condition or symptoms such as high blood pressure, chest pain or an irregular heartbeat. How should I proceed?

– There are a few weight issues, and how does it influence my activity?

– Current medications, and how does it affect my activity level?

– Problems that might cause pain with movement like joint issues.

Smoking, exercise and lung cancer.

The benefits of exercise don’t isolate to a particular group of people. Men, women, smokers, non-smokers and former smokers, all benefit from exercising. Smokers who have a high level of physical activity reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by 10%.

Surprisingly, recent studies show that smokers tend to benefit more from exercise than non-smokers. But, for smokers, the benefits will however be dwarfed due to the harmful effects of smoking. 

November is the month of lung cancer awareness. Hence, there is no better time than this to start planning your exercising schedule.

To know in detail about lung cancer, read ahead. If you or anyone in your circle is diagnosed with lung cancer, our care managers and our team of expert Oncologists are here to guide you with the best treatment options. Reach out to us here!

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