new BMJ study finds that group exercise improves the physical and psychological well being of people affected with breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the UK. Treatment for cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can degrade the quality of life.
Current cancer rehabilitation programs are mainly based on psychotherapy or social support, and do not consider the physical problems faced by patients.
Researchers from Scotland set out to determine if group exercise programs could prove beneficial to women who were having treatment for early stage breast cancer.
Over 200 women took part in the study. They were split into two separate groups; the first (control group) received their usual care, whilst the second group received their usual care plus were invited to take part in a 12 -week program of exercise sessions.
The latter were encouraged to attend two classes - led by trained exercise specialists - and undertake one additional exercise session at home each week.
Following the 12 - week session, the researchers analyzed the physical and psychological well being of the participants by measuring a number of factors like levels of depression, quality of life, mood, shoulder mobility, walking distances and weekly levels of physical activity. These factors were measured after 12 weeks and six months later.
Participants in the second group had better outcomes at the 12 week and six month assessments, on both a physical and psychological level than those who had not taken part in the exercise program.. Also, after six months those who had exercised had made fewer visits to their GP, and spent fewer nights in hospital, than the participants in the control group.
The researchers say that the benefits experienced by the women may have been caused by the exercise itself or by the group experience, or a combination of both.
They conclude that clinicians should encourage activity during cancer treatment for patients, and policy makers should consider including opportunities for exercise in cancer rehabilitation services.