Regular Exercise Improves Outcomes in Patients With Colorectal Cancer


Regular physical activity helps to facilitate a healthy gut microbiome and lowers inflammation, which were observed in patients independent of body mass index.

Getting regular exercise was found to improve the survival of patients with colorectal cancer, according to a study published in the American Journal of Cancer Research.

The study was the first to find a positive association between the impact of exercise on the gut microbiome of patients with cancer, according to the authors. Additionally, the study found that physical activity is also beneficial to obese patients with cancer, who generally have a less healthy gut microbiome, according to the study authors.

They added that their findings represent an important step in understanding the impact of a healthy gut on outcomes in patients with colorectal cancer.

“A patient who is active has a more diverse microbiome and lower abundances of colorectal cancer-promoting bacteria, and higher amounts of bacteria that protect against colorectal cancer,” said lead author Caroline Himbert, PhD, research fellow with the Ulrich Group, in a press release. “Our study suggests that nobody needs to be an athlete to get the benefits. It can be easy activities. Just staying active is very beneficial.”

The study found that regular exercise helps to facilitate a healthy gut microbiome and lowers inflammation, which were observed in patients independent of body mass index, including those considered severely overweight or obese.

“Inflammation is a key process that drives colorectal cancer. We know a high BMI causes inflammation around the body,” said study lead Cornelia Ulrich, PhD, MS, executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, in a press release. “Obesity is on the verge of becoming the number one cause of cancer in the United States, surpassing smoking. More than 13 cancers are linked to obesity. It’s important we understand that moderate exercise can help colorectal cancer patients reduce inflammation, improve their gut health, and live longer—even if they are overweight or obese.”

American Cancer Society data show that outside of skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of the disease in the United States, with 106,180 new cases of colon cancer and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer this year. The study authors noted that high levels of inflammation, such as inflammation associated with higher BMIs and lack of physical activity, increases the risk for colon cancer.

“If you reduce your BMI, you have lower levels of inflammation. If you have lower inflammation, your risk of death is reduced,” Jennifer Ose, PhD, MS, MPH, an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences, said in a press release.


Moderate exercise helps colorectal cancer patients live longer by reducing inflammation and improving gut bacteria, including in patients who are obese. Huntsman Cancer Institute. News release. December 12, 2022.

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