Increased physical activity can improve quality of life in African American cancer survivors : Study

The study found that the physical activity that most survivors engage in does not meet the current recommendations

Among African American cancer survivors, regular exercise may help in improving their well-being a new study claims. However, the physical activity that most survivors engage in does not meet the current recommendations. The findings of the study were published in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS), CANCER.

A minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity a week

Because regular physical activity can influence a variety of factors that affect survival after a cancer diagnosis, the ACS recommends that cancer survivors engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. For most cancers, African American patients have a higher likelihood of dying from their disease than other racial or ethnic groups, and preliminary research suggests that they engage in lower levels of physical activity.

To assess levels of physical activity in African American cancer survivors and to examine the relationship between such physical activity and their health-related quality of life (their physical, social, emotional, and functional well-being), Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, MPH, PhD, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University in Detroit, and her colleagues analyzed information from the Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors (Detroit ROCS) study.

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Only one-quarter of survivors met recommendations

In this population-based study that includes African Americans diagnosed with the four most common cancers (lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers), participants complete baseline and yearly follow-up surveys to update their health and health behaviors.

Among the first 1,500 participants, 60 percent reported engaging in regular physical activity, with 24 percent reporting at least 150 minutes per week. There were no differences by gender. Prostate cancer survivors were the most likely to report participating in physical activity (28 percent), while lung cancer survivors were the least likely (18 percent).

Survivors reported engaging in more physical activity at the first follow-up survey, increasing from an average of 76 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at the start of the study to 110 minutes at the one-year follow-up. At the start, just one-quarter of survivors met ACS recommendations, compared with 34 percent at the one-year follow-up.

Regular physical activity linked to a higher quality of life

Survivors who participated in regular physical activity reported higher health-related quality of life and lower depression. Also, increases in the amount of physical activity between the start of the study and the one-year follow-up correlated with improvements in health-related quality of life.

"Identifying barriers to participation in regular exercise and developing interventions to reduce these barriers in African American cancer survivors will be critical for improving outcomes in this population and minimizing cancer health disparities," said Dr. Beebe-Dimmer.

(With inputs from agencies)