African American women, who tend to have higher rates of death from
breast cancer than white women, were less likely to meet the
“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.
He worked on the study at the Gillings School of Global Public
Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
About one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer at some
point in her life.
Olshan and his colleagues used data from the Carolina Breast Cancer
Study to see how physical activity levels change after a breast
The study included 1,735 women ages 20 to 74 who were diagnosed with
invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011 in North Carolina. The
women were an average of 56 years old when they were diagnosed.
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.
About 60 percent of the study participants reported exercising less
after their diagnosis than before when they were interviewed roughly
six months post-diagnosis.
The average participant reduced her activity by the equivalent of
about five hours of brisk walking per week, according to findings
published in the journal Cancer.
When compared with white women, African American women reported
lower levels of physical activity before their diagnoses and larger
drops in activity afterward. However, the difference in physical
activity declines after diagnosis went away when the researchers
took into account women's general health, lifestyle and type of
“More women with breast cancer should increase their participation
in physical activity after the diagnosis of breast cancer,” Olshan
said. “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 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 here: http://bit.ly/1k1c00M.
[to top of second column]
Women can do either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per
week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of
both, Olshan said.
“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
Olshan added that strength training for all major muscle groups also
should be done at least two days per week.
“Exercise can really help to reduce fatigue and improves muscle
strength, physical endurance and self-esteem,” said Maureen Pike.
“It helps to deal with some of the emotional issues that surround
cancer survivorship as well.”
Pike is a Technical Advisor for Chronic Disease Prevention Programs
at the YMCA of the USA. She wasn’t involved in the study.
The YMCA teamed up with the LIVESTRONG Foundation in 2007 to create
a research-informed exercise program to help survivors reclaim their
health after going through the experience of cancer and treatment,
she noted. The program is available at 157 corporate YMCA
associations, often free of charge.
Pike said the program’s goals include managing side effects like
pain and fatigue.
She said cancer patients should talk to their healthcare providers
about exercise, and added that connecting with other people with
similar conditions might be better than trying to go about it alone.
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.
Cancer, online June 9, 2104.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.