Despite the well-known benefits of physical activity for general health and for cancer survivors, only about 1 in 10 of all cancer survivors are doing enough exercise to gain benefits, according to a study reported by Yale investigators.
The level of physical activity recommended for cancer survivors by the US Department of Health and Human Services is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and 2 sessions of strength training every week. In a large US study of cancer survivors, only 10% met the recommended level of physical activity.
Interestingly, survivors who did exercise at the recommended level reported improved quality of life, with less fatigue, improved mental and physical health, and increased satisfaction in social activities and relationships compared with those who did not exercise.
One of the study investigators, Melinda Irwin, PhD, codirector of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Yale Cancer Center and associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, said most studies of exercise and cancer are in breast cancer survivors. The present study was based on the 2010 National Health Interview Survey that included a large sample of more than 19 million cancer survivors with more than 10 different types of cancer.
“The finding that only 10% of cancer survivors meet physical activity guidelines is very concerning. We know that exercise not only improves multiple aspects of quality of life, but other studies have shown that it is also associated with lower risk of recurrence and mortality,” Irwin said. “The 10% rate is what we see in the general healthy adult population, so we need to make huge efforts to increase physical activity for everyone.”
Senior author of the study, Anees Chagpar, MD, director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, said that exercise should be a priority for patients and physicians. “Perhaps we as oncologists should be writing more prescriptions for physical activity,” she stated.
Tewari A, Irwin M, Chagpar A. Physical activity is associated with improved quality of life in cancer survivors: a population-based analysis. Presented at: 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; April 5-9, 2014; San Diego, CA. Abstract 5039.