Regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help improve body weight and physical function in elderly cancer survivors, says a new study.
According to researchers from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre's Department of Behavioral Sciences, home-based diet and exercise intervention programs can improve older adults' quality of life.
The RENEW (Reach-out to ENhancE Wellness) trial included 641 participants aged 65 or older, who had been diagnosed with breast, prostate or colorectal cancer at least five years prior and were overweight or obese.
The participant group was divided into 319 who received an intervention and 322 who were waitlisted.
Those in the intervention group participated in 15 telephone counselling sessions with a personal trainer throughout the intervention year, and worked toward establishing several daily goals, including performing lower body strength exercises, walking 30 minutes, using portion-control plates, cups and bowls, consuming fewer than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and eating more fruits and vegetables.
The researchers found that at the end of the year, the participants in the intervention group showed improvements in their diet and exercise habits and improved physical function scores.
The people in the intervention group increased their physical activity to 44.9 minutes per week compared to 29.7 minutes per week for the control group.
Moreover, most significant were notable strength improvements in the participants' legs.
The participants also showed a three percent drop in body weight versus a one percent drop in the control group.
"These findings are significant as the survivors who participated in the program had much better ability to stand-up, walk and function on their own, and enjoyed better quality of life," said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's Department of Behavioural Science.
"These functions are critical in retaining independence. The next step is to follow up with the participants to see if the effect is sustained, and replicate the results in the waitlisted group," she added.
The findings were presented at the seventh annual American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Conference.