Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Running reduces side effects of chemotherapy

Every oncologist knows of an athlete who has been treated for cancer and during chemotherapy kept running, swimming, cycling or doing strength training. Normally chemotherapy takes its toll on the body - a person's muscles and their strength - but this small group of people seems to take chemotherapy in their stride. In 2014 Danish sports scientists at the University of Copenhagen published an animal study that confirmed the remarkable observations of practising oncologists.

Running reduces side effects of chemotherapy
The researchers gave a group of mice a dose of cisplatin [structural formula shown here] every day for a period of 6 weeks. Cisplatin is a cytostatic drug often used in chemotherapy. Another group of mice was given no cisplatin.

The researchers got half of the cisplatin mice and half of the mice in the other group to run daily on a treadmill as much as they wanted. The rest of the mice led a sedentary life.

Administering cisplatin reduced the mice's muscle mass and strength. But if the animals ran daily on the treadmill the loss of lean body mass and muscle mass was minimal.

Running reduces side effects of chemotherapy

Running reduces side effects of chemotherapy

Hardlopen reduceert bijwerkingen chemokuur
The Hang Test measures how much strength it took to loosen a lab animal's grip when it was hanging on to something. The more strength needed to detach the animal, the stronger its muscles. The figure above shows that cisplatin reduced muscle strength, but that physical exercise lessened this reduction.

Cisplatin boosts the concentration of catabolic signalling molecules such as Atrogin-1 and MuRF-1, and deactivates anabolic signalling molecules such as Akt and mTOR. Physical exercise was able to largely prevent these effects.

Running reduces side effects of chemotherapy

Finally, cisplatin lowered the concentration of glucose in the animals' muscle cells, but physical exercise had little effect on this.

Running reduces side effects of chemotherapy

Cisplatin boosted the secretion of TNF-alpha in the muscle cells. TNF-Alpha is an inflammatory factor that sabotages the effect of insulin. Running in a treadmill could not prevent this from happening.

"After 6 weeks of cisplatin treatment, we observed a marked induction of TNF-alpha expression in the muscles, which was not reversed by exercise," the researchers wrote. "This discrepancy between TNF-alpha expression and loss of lean body mass indicates that inflammation-driven muscle wasting is not an important pathway in cisplatin-induced muscle wasting in our model."

"In summary, we found that exercise during treatment could alleviate cisplatin-induced muscle wasting and signalling impairments in protein degradation and hypertrophic pathways in healthy mice," the researchers concluded. "Thus exercise training might be a promising strategy for preservation of muscle mass in cancer patients receiving treatment with cisplatin, and holds the potential for improving physical capacity, quality of life and overall survival."

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 30;9(9):e109030.

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