Physical exercise minimizes the toxic triad for cancer: physical inactivity, low fitness, and obesity


  • Javier Salvador Morales Universidad Europea, Madrid, Spain
  • Alejandro Lucia Universidad Europea & Instituto de Investigación Hospital 12 de Octubre (i+12), Madrid, Spain.
  • Helios Pareja Galeano Universidad Europea & Instituto de Investigación Hospital 12 de Octubre (i+12), Madrid, Spain.


The so-called toxic triad of factors linked to cancer, namely obesity, poor cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and physical inactivity, increase the risk of cancer and, when cancer is present, worsen its prognosis. Thus, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle have been linked to an elevated cancer risk whereas regular physical exercise and good CRF diminish this risk. Despite genetic risk factors, there is evidence to show that some lifestyle modifications are capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and its associated morbidity and mortality. Regular physical exercise targeted at maintaining body weight within healthy limits and improving CRF will reduce a person's cancer risk and, once diagnosed, will also improve its prognosis, reducing mortality and the risk of disease recurrence through similar effects. In this review, we describe how physical activity can be used as a pleiotropic, coadjuvant tool to minimize the toxic triad for cancer and update the mechanisms proposed to date for the effects observed.


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