Exercise and yoga during breast cancer treatment may improve quality of life

In collaboration with the Press Association

Two new studies have added to the evidence that exercise can be of benefit for people undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

The studies, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), found that exercise and yoga can help to maintain quality of life among women with early-stage breast cancer.

In the first study, Canadian researchers found that women undergoing chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer benefited from improved physical fitness and self-esteem if they followed a programme of regular exercise.

The study involved 82 women who did resistance exercise three times a week for approximately 17 weeks, 78 who did a similar amount of aerobic exercise, and 82 who did not follow a programme of supervised exercise.

Women who participated in resistance exercise were found to develop improved muscle strength, body mass and self-esteem compared with those who did not exercise.

Aerobic exercise improved patients' fitness and self-esteem and reduced their body fat percentage, and the researchers noted that exercise did not cause any adverse side effects.

The study also revealed that patients in the resistance exercise group were more likely to complete their chemotherapy course on schedule, possibly because of an improvement in white blood cell count, although the researchers stressed that more research was needed in this area.

Lead author Dr Kerry Courneya, professor and Canada research chair in physical activity and cancer at the University of Alberta, said: "Breast cancer patients can exercise while they're receiving chemotherapy and achieve meaningful benefits in terms of physical fitness, body composition and self-esteem."

Meanwhile, a separate study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine looked at the benefits of yoga in women with early-stage breast cancer.

Of the 84 women who had breast cancer, around half were receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy during the study period, while the others had either completed treatment or did not require treatment.

Among those who were not undergoing chemotherapy, those taking yoga reported improved quality of life, emotional wellbeing and mood, while patients who did not do yoga reported lower social wellbeing.

Lead author Dr Alyson Moadel, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and population health, commented: "Yoga can promote better quality of life for women with breast cancer by helping them connect with others and feel calmer."

Dr Moadel pointed out that chemotherapy patients may need to do more yoga than those not receiving treatment in order to notice the benefits, because of the physical and emotional challenges associated with the treatment.

"If attending frequent classes isn't feasible, women should consider using videotapes at home or doing breathing exercises while they receive treatment," she added.