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The small study found that four weeks of high-intensity interval exercise significantly reduced colon cancer cell number in colon cancer survivors. The reduced colon cancer cell growth was dependant on the transient increase in inflammatory cytokines post-exercise.

This was a small study but suggests that repetitive exposure to the transient burst of inflammation that is induced by exercise may contribute to the relationship between exercise and improved colorectal cancer survival.

Serum from colon cancer survivors that engaged in high-intensity exercise slowed the growth of colon cancer cells that were cultured in the “exercise serum” compared to a baseline “non-exercise serum.” This inhibition of cancer growth only occurred up to 2-hours post-exercise when inflammatory biomarkers were high in serum from colon cancer survivors. This is interesting because the inflammatory response that results from exercise peaks about 1-hour post-exercise then continues to subside and is followed by a powerful anti-inflammatory response. This pilot study suggests that this transient exercise-induced inflammation slows colon cancer growth.

The high-intensity exercise training program consisted of a 38-minute session commenced with a 10 minute warm-up at 50-70% peak heart rate before 4x4 minute bouts of cycling at 85-95% heart rate peak were completed. Three minutes of active recovery separated each exercise bout. This was done 3x a week for four weeks.

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