29 October 2012
First study into lasting benefits of exercising during cancer treatment
Regular exercise reduces depression in cancer patients, according to Macmillan Cancer Support following the first study into the long-term benefits of supervised physical activity for cancer patients during treatment.
New Macmillan-funded research by a team of UK researchers at the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee, recently published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, revealed that women who had taken part in an exercise programme during treatment for breast cancer five years ago, now averaged three hours twenty minutes more physical activity each week than a control group who did not participate in the exercise intervention during treatment.
203 women took part in the original 12-week supervised group exercise programme during treatment for early stage breast cancer and 87 were reassessed at the five-year follow up. The results of the study showed that the women who were more active consistently experienced lower levels of depression and increased quality of life compared to those who were less active.
Dr Anna Campbell, Lecturer in Clinical Exercise Science at the University of Dundee, and part of the research team who led the study, says:
“This is the first study to follow cancer patients five years after a randomised controlled trial to determine if there are any lasting benefits of the exercise intervention. The results were much more positive than we had expected – with evidence of lasting benefits of increased positive mood and more active daily living.
“In particular, the women given the group exercise intervention were still achieving on average 50 to 350 minutes of extra physical activity per week compared to the controls – and this could most likely provide considerable health benefits to these cancer survivors.
“Qualitative data from the two groups five years later suggest that the women who were part of the exercise group were now more independent exercisers and were not limited by as many barriers to exercise as the women who had not been allocated to exercise during treatment. Therefore these independent exercisers possibly experienced an increase in confidence through the behaviour change programme and/or through the positive effects of the group setting providing support and confidence.”
Elaine McNish, Physical Activity Programme Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“This latest research provides yet more evidence of the benefits of physical activity for people living with cancer during and after treatment. Macmillan’s Move More campaign is calling for health professionals to talk to cancer patients about keeping active. In order for them to be able to signpost people to local services, we want public health commissioners to commission physical activity services for cancer in the same way they do for heart disease.”
Laura Simm, 52 from Lochwinnoch in Scotland, took part in the exercise programme whilst undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer. She says:
“I'm not a gym person but it felt really good during the classes and afterwards I felt immediately better, brighter and cheerier in myself. Ever since I took part in the programme I have endeavoured to do something every weekday morning. I'll go for a brisk walk and a bit of a jog for around 4-5km five times a week as well as some swimming.
“The most beneficial thing for me about taking part is how it helped me mentally. I suffer from fatigue, but find being active outside in the fresh air is really therapeutic and makes me feel more positive.”
For support getting into or back into physical activity you can visit www.macmillan.org.uk/movemore and request an information pack or call our support line on 0808 808 0000.
For further information, please contact:
Claire Keuls, Media & PR Officer
020 7840 4872 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1 N. Mutrie, A. Campbell, S. Barry, A. McConnachie, K. Hefferon, D. Ritchie, S. Tovey, Five-year follow-up of participants in a randomised controlled trial showing benefits from exercise for breast cancer survivors during adjuvant treatment. Are there lasting effects? Journal of Cancer Survivorship (2012)
2 In general, the study’s analysis suggested that 5 years subsequent to taking part in such an exercise intervention similar patients would be likely to achieve on average 50 to 350 min of extra physical activity per week than patients treated as usual.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way.
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