Recent study suggests women with breast cancer don’t get enough exercise

Photo Credit: Miles2Give

USA – A recent study suggests that only one in three women living with breast cancer is meeting current physical activity guidelines.

Study also suggests that African American women tends to have higher rates of d***h from breast cancer than white women.

Andrew Olshan worked on the study at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Olshan and his colleagues utilized the data from the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, in order to correlate and see how physical activity levels change after a breast cancer diagnosis.

The study included 1,735 women ages 20 to 74, who were all diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011 in North Carolina. The women, who took part on the study, have an average of 56 years old when they were diagnosed.

Photo Credit: Emory News Center
Photo Credit: Emory News Center

Study suggests that about one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.

“Physical activity is thought to lower the risk of other diseases among breast cancer survivors, increase their overall quality of life and reduce their mortality from breast cancer and other diseases,” Andrew Olshan told Reuters Health in an email.

As reported by Reuters, the research team found that “65 percent of breast cancer survivors fell short of meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.”

Study also reveals that about 60 percent of the participants reported exercising less after their diagnosis than before when they were interviewed roughly six months post-diagnosis.

According to findings published in the journal Cancer, the average participant reduced her activity by the equivalent of about five hours of brisk walking per week.

“More women with breast cancer should increase their participation in physical activity after the diagnosis of breast cancer. Additional efforts to increase physical activity among African American women are warranted given their lower levels of physical activity and higher rates of disease and poorer survival,” Olshan said.

Olshan said that women should talk with their doctor before starting any new exercise program. The American Cancer Society also lists some precautions for cancer survivors who want to exercise, some of these were:

  • Keep or improve your physical abilities (how well you can use your body to do things)
  • Improve balance, lower risk of falls and broken bones
  • Keep muscles from wasting due to inactivity
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Lessen the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones that are more likely to break)
  • Improve blood flow to your legs and lower the risk of blood clots
  • Make you less dependent on others for help with normal activities of daily living
  • Improve your self-esteem
  • Lower the risk of being anxious and depressed
  • Lessen nausea
  • Improve your ability to keep social contacts
  • Lessen symptoms of tiredness (fatigue)
  • Help you control your weight
  • Improve your quality of life

Olshan suggested that women can do either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both.

“Exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time and try to exercise throughout the week rather than cramming it all in on one day,” he said, saying that strength training for all major muscle groups also should be done at least two days per week.

Maureen Pike, the Technical Advisor for Chronic Disease Prevention Programs at the YMCA of the USA said, “Exercise can really help to reduce fatigue and improves muscle strength, physical endurance and self-esteem. It helps to deal with some of the emotional issues that surround cancer survivorship as well.”

The YMCA teamed up with the LIVESTRONG Foundation in 2007, in order to create a research-informed exercise program to help survivors reclaim their health after going through the experience of cancer and treatment. The program is available at 157 corporate YMCA associations, often free of charge.

Seeking out some sort of support and not just trying to go to the gym alone can be helpful for keeping that motivation up to continue to exercise, she said.