FRIDAY, November 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — An exercise program, though not as intense as national guidelines suggest, could help breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy reduce fatigue and have a better quality of life, such new research results.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia enrolled 89 women in this study – 43 participated in the exercise portion; the control group does not.

The trainees completed a 12-week home program. It included weekly resistance training sessions and 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise.

The researchers found that patients who exercised recovered faster from cancer-related fatigue during and after radiation therapy compared to the control group. Exercisers also saw a significant increase in health-related quality of life, which could include measures of emotional, physical, and social well-being.

“The amount of exercise should increase gradually, with the ultimate goal that participants meet national guidelines for recommended exercise levels,” said study leader Georgios Mavropalias, a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Medical and Health Sciences.

“However, the exercise programs were relative to the fitness capacity of the participants, and we even found exercise dosages much lower than those recommended [Australian] national guidelines can have a significant impact on cancer-related fatigue and health-related quality of life during and after radiation therapy,” Mavropalias said in a university press release.

Australia’s national guidelines for cancer patients call for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three days a week. This is in addition to strength training exercises two to three days a week.

According to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, approximately 1 in 8 women and 1 in 833 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

The study showed that a home exercise program during radiation therapy is safe, feasible and effective, said study leader Professor Rob Newton, professor of exercise medicine.

“A home protocol might be preferable for patients because it is inexpensive, does not require travel or personal monitoring, and can be performed at a time and place of the patient’s choice,” he said in the press release. These benefits can provide significant comfort to patients.”

Study participants who began an exercise program typically stayed with it. They reported significant improvements in light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity up to one year after the end of the program.

“The exercise regimen in this study appears to have induced changes in the participants’ behavior related to physical activity,” Mavropalias said. “Aside from the direct positive effects on reducing cancer-related fatigue and improving health-related quality of life during radiation therapy, home exercise protocols can therefore result in changes in participants’ physical activity levels that persist long after the end of the radiation therapy program.” “

The study results were recently published in the journal breast cancer.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on exercising with cancer.

SOURCE: Edith Cowan University, press release, November 20, 2022