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Exercise benefits breast cancer patients

16th April 2012

Researchers in the United States say that women with breast cancer should make exercise a top priority because of its positive effects on mental health while they are undergoing treatment.

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According to the research team from the University of Miami, regular exercise reduced feelings of tiredness, boosted mood and improved the overall quality of life for breast cancer patients.

It was particularly effective in reducing stress when combined with group therapy.

Researcher Jamie M. Stagl said that the women surveyed in the study benefited from even moderate activity. He said that even moderate forms of exercise boosted endorphin levels and made women feel better.

According to breast cancer survivor Crystal King, who took up running following surgery in 2003, running was a way to escape feelings of sadness, and to boost her sense of control over her own life.

King, 34, now takes part regularly in five-kilometre runs for a cancer charity, her current employer. She said she did not force herself to exercise on days when chemotherapy made her feel at her worst.

The study set out to establish whether or not physical activity enhanced group therapy in stress-management programmes for breast cancer patient.

It followed 240 women who had recently undergone surgery for breast cancer, evaluating their quality of life, mood, energy levels and participation in exercise before they started.

Half of this group were offered a 10-week group programme to reduce stress, while the other half were given a single-day workshop.

The researchers found that levels of exercise reported by the women were linked to higher scores on tests designed to measure quality of life, regardless of which group they were in.

The study received funding from the National Cancer Institute, and is due to be presented soon at a conference on behavioural medicine in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, personal trainer Cathy Bryan said she had discovered that a supervised programme of weight lifting was not only safe, but beneficial, following lymph node removal. She said many women began exercising more after diagnosis than they had beforehand, and almost all derived some benefit from it.

Women who have had lymph nodes removed were previously advised to avoid lifting weights.

Bryan said breast cancer patients should seek out a trainer who had experience of working with breast cancer in clients.

 

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