The effect of physical exercise on anticancer immunity

Nat Rev Immunol. 2024 Apr;24(4):282-293. doi: 10.1038/s41577-023-00943-0. Epub 2023 Oct 4.


Regular physical activity is associated with lower cancer incidence and mortality, as well as with a lower rate of tumour recurrence. The epidemiological evidence is supported by preclinical studies in animal models showing that regular exercise delays the progression of cancer, including highly aggressive malignancies. Although the mechanisms underlying the antitumorigenic effects of exercise remain to be defined, an improvement in cancer immunosurveillance is likely important, with different immune cell subtypes stimulated by exercise to infiltrate tumours. There is also evidence that immune cells from blood collected after an exercise bout could be used as adoptive cell therapy for cancer. In this Perspective, we address the importance of muscular activity for maintaining a healthy immune system and discuss the effects of a single bout of exercise (that is, 'acute' exercise) and those of 'regular' exercise (that is, repeated bouts) on anticancer immunity, including tumour infiltrates. We also address the postulated mechanisms and the clinical implications of this emerging area of research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Neoplasms* / therapy