Exercise is great for your mental, physical and physiological health. It makes you feel stronger, gives you a massive boost of feel-good endorphins and keeps your body healthy as you age.
New research has found that exercise could also be helpful in fighting cancer, by changing the inner workings of immune cells. The findings of the study, which looked at how running affects tumours in mice, could help us understand how exercise might also affect the way cancer behaves in people.
In order to explore this, a group of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden inoculated mice with different types of cancer cells. In the trial, some of the mice were allowed to run while others remained sedentary.
According to The New York Times, researchers found the rodents who were running showed minimal tumour growth. What was even more interesting was the fact that most of the active mice had been injected with cancer cells that are vulnerable to a specific type of immune cell which tends to fight certain forms of breast cancer and other tumours.
The researchers speculated that exercise seemed to be having an effect on these immune cells and so, decided to chemically block the action of these T cells in the animals carrying the tumour cells.
After several weeks of running, the mice without the CD8+ T cells showed significant tumour growth, which suggests that these cells are an important part of how exercise can help stave off certain tumours.
The researchers were surprised by the results of their study and told NYT that as far as their research was concerned, exercise changed the cells in a way that had a lasting impact.
“It does seem from our studies that these T cells are potently affected by exercise,” said Randall Johnson, a professor of molecular physiology with dual appointments at the University of Cambridge in England and the Karolinska Institute, who oversaw the study. “The effect of exercise on the T cells is intrinsic to the cells themselves and is persistent,” he says.
As with all research, this study had its shortcomings, including the fact that researchers aren’t able to pinpoint whether all exercise has the same positive effect, or whether certain types are better than others. Dr Johnson said that the researchers will continue to explore these findings further as more research is needed to find a solid, conclusive link that could be replicated in humans.
Despite these imperfections, this research is a good reminder to move your body every day, which will have massive benefits for your health overall. Who can say no to that sweet post-workout high?