• R-Newton

Quality of life for women with advanced cancer is improved by walking

February 21st, 2017

Did you know that walking for just 30 minutes three times per week could improve the quality of life for those with advanced cancer? That’s the important finding from a new study published in the BMJ Open journal.

Despite growing evidence of significant health benefits of exercise to cancer patients, physical activity commonly declines considerably during treatment and remains low afterwards. But the health benefits of walking are well documented,  improving cardio vascular strength and increasing energy levels for those who get active.

During this UK study 42 cancer patients were split into two groups. Group one received coaching from an initiative by Macmillan Cancer which included a short motivational interview, the recommendation to walk for at least 30 minutes on alternate days and attend a volunteer-led group walk weekly. Group two were encouraged to maintain their current level of activity.

Researchers found that those in group one reported an improvement in physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing having completed the program. Many participants noted that walking provided an improved positive attitude towards their illness and spoke of the social benefits of participating in group walks.

One of the participants commented:

“The impact has been immense! It gave me the motivation to not only increase walking activity from minutes to 3-4 hours per week but also to reduce weight by altering diet, reducing sweets/sugars. Great boost to morale. No longer dwell on being terminal – I’m just on getting on with making life as enjoyable as possible, greatly helped by friends made on regular ‘walks for life’.”

Professor Emma Ream, co-author of the paper from the University of Surrey, said: “The importance of exercise in preventing cancer recurrence and managing other chronic illnesses is becoming clear.

“Findings from this important study show that exercise is valued by, suitable for, and beneficial to people with advanced cancer. Rather than shying away from exercise people with advanced disease should be encouraged to be more active and incorporate exercise into their daily lives where possible.”

Dr Jo Armes, lead researcher and Senior Lecturer at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery, King’s College London, said:

“This study is a first step towards exploring how walking can help people living with advanced cancer. Walking is a free and accessible form of physical activity, and patients reported that it made a real difference to their quality of life.

“Further research is needed with a larger number of people to provide definitive evidence that walking improves both health outcomes and social and emotional wellbeing in this group of people.”

What is NBCF doing in this area?

NBCF funds research into the benefits of exercise for reducing the risk of breast cancer, and also as part of the treatment regime for those with breast cancer.

Breast cancer in its advanced stage often spreads to the spine and pelvis, resulting in pain and stiffness that leads women to avoid physical activity which reduces their overall health.

Professor Robert Newton from the Exercise Medicine Research Institute at Edith Cowan University believes appropriate exercise has an anti-cancer effect, slowing tumour growth by changing tumour biology, and increasing blood-flow to tumour sites to help make other therapies, such as chemotherapy, more effective.

Professor Newton and his team will deliver safe and effective exercise programs using resistance and aerobic exercise to women with advanced breast cancer. The investigation will evaluate reductions in tumour growth, improved quality of life, better physical function in muscle and bone and healthier heart and lungs.

The success of this initial program will provide Professor Newton with the critical pilot data necessary to build on NBCF’s seed funding and make the exercise regime accessible to everyone dealing with the symptoms of advanced breast cancer in Australia.

The original version of this story appeared in oncologynews.com.au.