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Research that Supports Recreation

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Running Helps Slow Cancer Growth

Key Message

Researchers found that the surge of adrenaline that comes with a high-intensity workout helped to move cancer-killing immune cells toward lung, liver, or skin tumors implanted into the mice.


Pedersen, Line et al. (2016). Voluntary Running Suppresses Tumor Growth through Epinephrine- and IL-6-Dependent NK Cell Mobilization and Redistribution. Cell Metabolism.In press. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.01.011


Regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer and disease recurrence. Yet the mechanisms behind this protection remain to be elucidated. In this study, tumor-bearing mice randomized to voluntary wheel running showed over 60% reduction in tumor incidence and growth across five different tumor models. Microarray analysis revealed training-induced upregulation of pathways associated with immune function. NK cell infiltration was significantly increased in tumors from running mice, whereas depletion of NK cells enhanced tumor growth and blunted the beneficial effects of exercise.


  • Exercise reduces tumor incidence and growth in several mouse models
  • Exercise increases NK cell infiltration, thereby controlling tumor growth
  • Epinephrine mobilizes NK cells and β-blockade blunts the tumor suppression
  • Exercise-induced muscle-derived IL-6 is involved in NK cell redistribution

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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