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Exercise may reduce cancer-related depression

Regular exercise can reduce depression in cancer patients, a study suggests.
A study by Macmillan Cancer Support into the long-term benefits of supervised physical activity for early stage breast cancer patients during treatment found women who were more active “consistently experienced lower levels of depression and increased quality of life” compared to those who were less active.

More than 200 women took part in the original 12-week supervised group exercise programme and 87 were reassessed at the five-year follow up by researchers from the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee.

The study, published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, found women who had taken part in an exercise programme during treatment for breast cancer five years ago, now averaged three hours twenty minutes more physical activity each week than those women who did not participate in the exercise intervention during treatment.

“The results were much more positive than we had expected - with evidence of lasting benefits of increased positive mood and more active daily living,” said Dr Anna Campbell, lecturer in Clinical Exercise Science at the University of Dundee and part of the research team who led the study.
“Data also suggests that the women who were part of the exercise group were now more independent exercisers and were not limited by as many barriers to exercise as the women who had not been allocated to exercise during treatment.
“Therefore these independent exercisers possibly experienced an increase in confidence through the behaviour change programme and/or through the positive effects of the group setting providing support and confidence.”

Elaine McNish, physical activity programme manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, urged public health commissioners to commission physical activity services for cancer “in the same way as they do for health disease” in light of the research.