Physical activity may improve survival and quality of life

Physical activity may help cancer survivors cope with anxiety and side effects, improving immune function, metabolic hormones and weight control and thereby possibly improving survival.

Obesity and weight gain in breast cancer survivors are associated with significant distress, lymphoedema, and possibly an increased risk of recurrence and reduced survival. "Cancer patients who engage in a regular physical exercise programme display robust and clinically significant improvements in physical and mental health compared with patients who do not exercise", states Professor Kerry S. Courneya, a Canadian researcher from the University of Alberta. Courneya spoke to the 18th UICC International Cancer Congress in Oslo, Norway, this week.

Reduces fatigue
Many cancer survivors experience fatigue. Several studies, including one by Courneya and collaborators, found that rest was not the best way to 'treat' fatigue in cancer patients. Instead, they recommend daily exercise to reduce fatigue.

"How vigorously should patients with fatigue exercise?"

"They should avoid high intensity exercise. Brisk walking and bicycling is OK, but not jogging. I recommend 30 minutes a day five days a week. Fatigue is cyclical. Patients should be advised to exercise on days with low fatigue and at a time of the day when they feel OK", responds Courneya.

Prevents weight gain
Breast cancer survivors often gain weight after chemotherapy, commonly 2.5 to 6.2 kilograms. This weight gain occurs without any gain in lean body mass. The cause of the weight gain is unknown but recent research suggests it may be due more to physical inactivity than to overeating or a reduction in resting energy expenditure.

Interventions that increase physical activity, may result in an appropriate energy balance in breast cancer survivors, thereby enhancing quality of life.

Six studies on breast cancer patients and a study on patients that

Contact: Hanna Hanes
Norwegian Cancer Society

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