Exercise May Improve Stress-Related Memory Problems In Breast Cancer Survivors
Engaging in physical activities has long been linked with improved health. Just 15 minutes of daily exercise, for instance, has been shown to extend the lifespan of older adults. Being physically active in midlife may also lower risk for stroke later in life.
Now, a new study has yet again provided another evidence of the benefits of engaging in physical activities and this time involving breast cancer survivors.
Excessive stress in breast cancer survivors may result in memory problems. Findings of the new study, however, have suggested that physical exercise may help improve self-reported memory issues among breast cancer survivors.
Study researcher Siobhan Phillips, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues wanted to examine the link between physical activity and memory issues among breast cancer survivors, so they looked at the self-reported memory and exercise data gathered from more than 1,800 breast cancer survivors.
The researchers found that moderate or vigorous physical activity such as biking, jogging, brisk walking or participating in exercise classes reduced stress and fatigue among these women, which has psychological benefits and leads to improved memory.
Although the study did not prove a causal relationship, improved levels of physical activity were associated with less distress and higher levels of confidence. These improvements were linked with fewer perceived memory problems.
"We found moderate to vigorous physical activity actually benefits women psychologically and that, in turn, helps their memory," Phillips said.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are often blamed for post-cancer memory issues. Phillips, however, said that emotion-related issues may partly contribute to this problem.
The patients may be stressed, frightened, fatigued, emotionally-tapped and have low self-confidence, which can be very mentally taxing and may lead to self-perceived problems with memory.
"Higher levels of physical activity, lower levels of fatigue and distress and higher exercise self-efficacy may play an important role in understanding SMI [subjective memory impairment] in breast cancer survivors across time," Phillips and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Psycho-Oncology on July 8.
"Future research is warranted to replicate and explore these relationships further."
Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in the United States. In 2013, more than 41,000 individuals in the U.S., most of whom were women, died from breast cancer.
Women who are most at risk of the condition are those who have family history of breast cancer and those who have inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.