Exercise Could Improve Quality of Life for Patients with Advanced Cancer

Walking regularly could boost overall health in patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Exercise is well-known to have myriad health benefits, including weight loss, reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, and it may even prevent cancer.

Walking is an easy way for individuals to improve cardiovascular strength and energy levels, which can be beneficial for patients with cancer.

A new study published by BMJ Open suggests that patients with advanced cancer could improve their quality of life by walking for 30 minutes, 3 times per week. In the study, the investigators explored the positive impact walking had on quality of life and symptoms in these patients.

Although exercise can provide substantial health benefits to patients with cancer, many do not partake in physical activity during and post-treatment. This phenomenon is likely due to severe adverse events associated with standard treatments, such as nausea for chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, current initiatives to increase physical activity among this group of patients require travel to facilities for supervision, which places an additional burden on patients, according to the study.

In total, 42 patients were included in the study, and received 1 of 2 interventions. Group 1 underwent coaching that included a motivational interview, a recommendation of walking for 30 minutes every other day, and a weekly group walk. Group 2 was encouraged to keep up with their current exercise regimen.

The investigators found that patients in group 1 reported substantial gains in physical, emotional, and psychological health after completing the program. Patients reported that walking improved their attitude towards their disease, according to the study.

"The importance of exercise in preventing cancer recurrence and managing other chronic illnesses is becoming clear,” said study co-author Emma Ream, PhD. "Findings from this important study show that exercise is valued by, suitable for, and beneficial to people with advanced cancer. Rather than shying away from exercise people with advanced disease should be encouraged to be more active and incorporate exercise into their daily lives where possible."

Patients even noted that they enjoyed the social aspects of the group walk. Implementing similar initiatives may allow patients to confide in and voice concerns to others with advanced disease, according to the study.

Since walking is a relatively easy way to increase exercise, initiatives that increase activity levels should be put into place to ensure that patients are improving their physical and mental health.

"This study is a first step towards exploring how walking can help people living with advanced cancer. Walking is a free and accessible form of physical activity, and patients reported that it made a real difference to their quality of life,” said lead researcher Jo Armes, PhD. "Further research is needed with a larger number of people to provide definitive evidence that walking improves both health outcomes and social and emotional wellbeing in this group of people."