Breast cancer survivors are encouraged to exercise to keep the disease from recurring. A study published October 4, 2012 by Oregon State University researchers provides valuable information about how to motivate women to continue exercising - something they say takes confidence.
The authors also suggest policy makers make structured support programs for women a focus of attention.
Specifically, the researchers say they would like to see insurance companies recognize the value of ongoing support programs. Supervised exercise for a year after breast cancer treatment would be ideal.
Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study explains in a news release, “We can teach breast cancer survivors how to enlist the support of others and how to identify exercise-related barriers, as well as provide proven strategies for them to overcome those barriers.”
Exercise is crucial for breast cancer survivors said Loprinzi, but according to background information from the authors, more than 40% of older women who survive the disease fail to remain physically active after ending a supervised exercise program.
The researchers say it takes confidence and self-efficacy skills for women to overcome hurdles to exercise that include being tired, which can happen from medication side effects, treatment and stress.
The researchers identified other reasons breast cancer survivors stop exercising in a clinical trial of 69 women. The goal was to identify factors that interfere with continued exercise after a supervised exercise program ends.
Bradley Cardinal, professor of exercise science at OSU and one of the study’s behavior authors says in a media release, instructors who lead supervised exercise programs for breast cancer survivors can help by being role models.
“When people who lead the classes are cancer survivors themselves, this can help because they become a role model,” he said. “Also, they can help prepare the participants for that time when they have to exercise on their own.”
One suggestion is encouraging women to take a walk when they feel stressed – something called ‘counter conditioning’. The goal is to replace negative behaviors with positive ones.
Cardinal says signing a ‘social contract’ with an exercise partner can help. Get a workout buddy and commit to exercising regularly. He also points out the importance of choosing exercise activities that are enjoyable.
Self motivation skills
Reward yourself with small successes. Cardinal says it’s critical for women "not to expect too much too soon.”
He would also like to see policy makers recognize the need for support for breast cancer survivors. “We know survivors of breast cancer are much more likely to stick with exercise if they have that structured, group support.”
Johns Hopkins experts advice to women is to know that you'll become healthy and strong again. after treatment. Reducing stress is also important. Exercising releases calming hormones and can actually reduce fatigue. The recommendation is 3 to 5 hours of exercise each week, which is shown to improve 10-year breast cancer survival rate.
They advise joining a support group, becoming a breast cancer advocate, putting yourself first sometimes, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. It's also important to stay on top of new research.
The OSU study highlights the importance of exercise for surviving breast cancer and the need for ongoing support and structure to help women keep exercising after their treatment ends.
Oregon State University News
October 4, 2012