Like Many, Black and White Breast Cancer Survivors May Need to Exercise More

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Like most American women (and men), most breast cancer survivors may also not be exercising enough to reap its many health benefits, suggests a new study. Yet it’s African American survivors who are even less likely to meet the activity recommendations compared to white women.Young Woman In White Sneakers Walking Outdoors

The study was published today in Cancer. It’s important because a lot of research has linked regular physical activity among survivors to to better health and longer lives.

AICR recommends that survivors follow the same activity recommendations as for prevention. Here’s a few examples of studies that have found how activity benefits survivors.

In this study, about 1,700 women diagnosed with breast cancer reported their activity habits both before their diagnosis and six months afterwards. The women ranged in age from 20 to 74, and about half were African American. Researchers converted the women’s activity habits into a common unit of measure: metabolic equivalent hours (METs).

Six months after diagnosis, 59 percent of all the patients reported being less active. Only about one-third of women reported they were active at least 150 minutes per week compared to 60 percent before diagnosis.

When the researchers analyzed the data by race, they found that fewer African American women reported meeting the activity guidelines both before and after diagnosis, compared to white women. About a quarter of the African American women were meeting the activity guidelines six months post diagnosis. And slightly over half reported being sedentary, compared to almost 40 percent of white women.

The study did find a positive: about one in five women increased their activity after diagnosis.

As the authors note, this study includes self reports and recalling, which could lead to inaccurate data. Yet the findings are not that far away from other surveys.

The women’s reported activities after diagnosis are only slightly below those of the general population. According to the CDC, about 50 percent of Americans report getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. That figures drops to 20 percent when muscle strengthening guidelines are added.

And cancer patients have added challenges when it comes to exercising. A few years ago, the American College of Sports Medicine came out with guidelines for survivors, urging all to avoid inactivity and aim to meet the government guidelines. As this study suggests, more research is needed as to how treatment and other issues play a role in helping survivors best avoid inactivity and become active.


    Author: Mya Nelson

    Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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