More Exercise and Stress Management Improves Quality of Life During and After Treatment

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Much research has shown that exercise, a healthy diet, and counseling can help women feel better, both physically and emotionally, during and after breast cancer treatment.

A study has found that doing more exercise and being in a stress management program after breast cancer surgery improved women’s mood, quality of life, and resistance to fatigue during and after breast cancer treatment.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and done by the University of Miami Department of Psychology. Read the summary of Benefits of Physical Activity on Depression and Functional Quality of Life During Treatment for Breast Cancer: Psychosocial Mechanisms.

240 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer started in the study from 4 to 10 weeks after breast cancer surgery. Other treatments (chemotherapy or radiation therapy, for example) were ongoing for many of the women while they were in the study.

The researchers kept track of the women’s physical activity levels. Half the women also participated in a 10-week stress management group (called cognitive behavioral stress management or CBSM). The other half participated in a one-day self-help education program.

All the women felt fatigue related to the breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. But during their first 3 months in the study, both doing more physical activity and participating in the CBSM program were linked to:

  • better mood
  • more resistance to fatigue, meaning fatigue didn’t disrupt a woman’s everyday activities
  • overall better quality of life

If you're currently being treated for breast cancer, the stress of your situation can add to the effects of breast cancer treatment. Consider getting help to manage your stress -- either individually or in a group. You also might want to consider trying one or more complementary and holistic medicine techniques to help you manage stress. In the Complementary and Holistic Medicine pages, you can learn about 16 therapies, including:

  • what to expect with each therapy
  • how to find a qualified practitioner
  • important things to consider before trying a technique

During and after treatment you should also try to make exercise and a healthy diet part of your daily routine. Think of exercise and a healthy diet as another important part of your overall treatment plan that helps you recover and stay healthy. Talk to your doctor about how much and how often you should exercise. Ask around and see if any breast cancer support groups near you have organized exercise classes. If you can't find an exercise class through a breast cancer group, consider joining another exercise class or start walking with a friend. There's a good chance that exercising with other people will give you the motivation and support to make regular exercise part of your recovery. Find the right exercise routine for YOU and then do your best to stick with it! It can make a difference both physically and mentally, today and tomorrow.

In the Exercise pages you can learn about:

  • the benefits of exercise
  • types of exercise
  • when you can and can't exercise during treatment
  • tips on finding a trainer

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