Physical activity can improve the quality of life of breast cancer survivors and can help women to cope with their diagnosis and recovery after treatment, an Australian study says.
Researcher Sheree Harrison from the School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, interviewed almost 300 breast cancer survivors over a year and recorded how much physical activity they engaged in, as well as how they saw their quality of life.
"The main finding was that women under 50 who were recovering from breast cancer and were consistently physically active were more likely to report better emotional well-being and have a higher overall quality of life than those who were less active or sedentary," Ms Harrison said.
"Young women are more likely to have difficulties adjusting to the disease after being diagnosed, and this was really helped by being physically active.
"It also reduced physical side affects like pain and fatigue."
Ms Harrison said she had hoped to find that exercise was beneficial to these women.
"One interesting thing was that it did not make a difference whether the physical activity was vigorous or moderate - the findings simply showed that exercising in general helped women cope with their recovery and improved their emotional well-being," she said.
"An unexpected finding was that we didn't see the same pattern with women aged over 50 years; their quality of life was consistently high regardless of their level of exercise. Although exercise would greatly benefit any pre-existing co-morbidities these women may have such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol."
While exercise helped many women in their path to recovery, it was found in the study that over half were either sedentary or not getting enough exercise.
Ms Harrison said those women who were not exercising may have lacked knowledge about the potential benefits of exercise or led an inactive lifestyle prior to the diagnosis
"I think there is still a misconception that people who have had an illness like this need to rest and not exercise, although this is changing and many of the breast cancer surgeons we work with recommend exercise to their patients," she said.
"The fact is you need to be as active as you can be, even if that means walking around the block and I think women need to know how important this is," she said.
Ms Harrison's study has fed into a new study she is part of, which looks at different ways of assisting women during their recovery to become more active. That study is due for completion late this year.