Exercise helps to ease fatigue and chemo brain

A new study has found that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can help to allay fatigue and “chemo brain” in breast cancer patients and survivors.

The University of Illinois research looked at the association between physical activity, fatigue and performance on cognitive tasks in nearly 300 breast cancer survivors.

The women in the study wore a movement tracker to record physical activity and also completed a number of questionnaires and tests on an ipad to measure cognitive function. The researchers found that the women who did more moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day had less fatigue, which allowed them to have better cognitive function.

The study’s leader Professor Edward McAuley says cognitive impairment such as memory loss or shortened attention span is commonly reported among breast cancer survivors. “Our data suggests that being more physically active could reduce two of the more commonly reported symptoms in breast cancer survivors: fatigue and cognitive impairment.

“We found that higher levels of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were associated with better performance on the cognitive tasks measuring attention, memory and multitasking,” he says.

Professor McAuley says the study suggests exercise could be prescribed to help address fatigue and other symptoms. “Most people think, ‘If I exercise, I’ll become tired.’ In our study, exercise actually was associated with reduced fatigue, which in turn was associated with better cognitive function,” he says.

The researchers say the evidence provided by this study is more robust than other studies because it used objective measures of physical activity and cognitive function, rather than self-reported activity and symptoms.

Next, the researchers plan to conduct further studies looking at how physical exercise may improve cognitive performance.

“The message for cancer patients and survivors is, get active! Even if it’s 10-minute bouts of brisk walking. It’s not a magical cure-all, but we’ve seen many benefits of physical activity for cancer patients and survivors.”

You can find out more about exercise programmes specifically for those who have finished cancer treatment run by BCAC member group, PINC & STEEL Cancer Rehabilitation Trust here. http://www.pincandsteel.com/

15 Aug 2017

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