Women may find yoga helps to reduce fatique and inflammation associated with breast cancer treatment, according to a new study from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.

Inflammation is a normal immune response to infection or injury and aims to protect the body from direct harm. However, certain health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis are associated with chronic inflammation. Women who are recovering from breast cancer also report sleep troubles as result of their medication, leading to fatigue and further inflammation.

Women recovering from breast cancer are advised to exercise regularly to keep up their strength and relieve fatigue and inflammation. However, cancer therapy often causes as much as a 30 percent decline in cardiorespiratory fitness. The less patients do, the less they find they are able to do.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, surveyed 200 breast cancer survivors ranging from age 26 to 76, who had completed treatment for either early or later-stage breast cancer. Participants completed a questionnaire that asked details about their mood, sleeping habits and eating habits. Inflammatory markers in their blood were also measured. Then they were broken up into random groups. One group joined a 90-minute hatha yoga class twice a week for 12 weeks, while the rest were not. At the end of 12 weeks, all participants were asked to complete the questionnaire again and have their blood checked for signs of inflammation.

At the end of the series of yoga classes, the participants reported a 41 percent decrease in fatigue, a 12 percent increase in vitality, and a marked drop in inflammation markers. Three months after the yoga classes have ended, the researchers checked on the participants again, and found that the benefits of yoga continued. The women's fatigue levels were found to be 57 percent lower and inflammation levels 13 to 20 percent lower.

"We were really surprised by the data because some more recent studies on exercise have suggested that exercise interventions may not necessarily lower inflammation unless people are substantially overweight or have metabolic problems," said the study's lead author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. "In this group, the women didn't lose weight, but we saw really marked reductions in inflammation. So this was a particularly striking finding biologically."

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