Can the Increased Motivation Cancer Survivors Have During the 1st Year After Treatment Lead Them to Exercise?
Investigator: Corinne Leach, PhD, MPH, MS
Institution: American Cancer Society, Intramural Research Department
Area of Research: Behavioral Research and Epidemiology
The Challenge: Research shows that cancer survivors can benefit from exercise. It can improve their health, reduce the chances that some types of cancer will recur, and can lead to a better quality of life. Yet, most people don’t exercise enough to meet the American Cancer Society (ACS) Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Survivors. These guidelines recommend that each week cancer survivors should aim to:
- Exercise for at least 150 minutes at a moderate intensity, such as by walking briskly or biking on level ground, or
- Exercise vigorously at least 75 minutes, such as by race walking or biking faster than 10 miles/hour.
The Research: ACS behavioral researcher Corinne Leach, PhD, MPH, MS, believed that the results might look different during the first year after a survivor’s treatment. During that period of time, known as re-entry, survivors may be more motivated to improve their health habits.
Leach was one of the senior authors of a recent study focusing on physical activity during re-entry.
She and her ACS coworkers used data from 1,160 people from the ACS’s National Cancer Survivor Transition Study. The team thinks they’re the first to study re-entry for such a large number of survivors of breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer.
Leach’s team found that during that first year after treatment about 58% of survivors met physical activity guidelines. But 8% were completely inactive. Those most likely to be inactive were women, unmarried people, and those with with lower education levels, higher BMIs, and more health conditions.
The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: The team hopes their findings will inspire more doctors and public health officials to use the re-entry period to educate cancer survivors about the benefits of being physically active. Programs that target and inspire survivors who are the most likely to be inactive may lead to the biggest gains in health.