New research from the University of Surrey and the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery at King’s College London has found that physical activity—specifically walking—can improve the quality of life in those with advanced cancer.
Previous research has shown that physical activity can provide a host of health benefits for those battling the disease, though for many, the frequency of exercise lessens as they undergo treatments and tends to remain low afterward. This is due in part to the exhausting nature of some treatments, as well as most programs aimed at cancer patients taking place in supervised facilities that may require additional travel or funds.
This new study has shown that the benefits of exercise can be seen through just 30 minutes of walking—an activity that is free and can be performed almost anywhere, making it easily accessible and feasible for cancer patients.
To test the effect of walking on a patient’s wellbeing, researchers gathered 42 volunteers currently battling cancer and split them into two groups. The first received coaching that included a motivational interview, and they were encouraged to walk for 30 minutes every other day as well as attend a weekly volunteer-led group walk.
The second group was simply encouraged to maintain their current level of physical activity. The study found that those in the first group saw improvements in their physical, emotional, and psychological health, along with the well-documented benefits of increased energy and improved cardiovascular health. Participants in the first group also reported a more positive attitude toward their illness, in addition to social benefits like boosted morale and building relationships with those in similar situations.
Lead researcher, Dr. Jo Armes, commented on these results, stating “This study is a first step towards exploring how walking can help people living with advanced cancer. Walking is a free and accessible form of physical activity, and patients reported that it made a real difference to their quality of life.” This study has provided evidence that including physical activity—especially in a social setting—can be beneficial to advanced cancer patients on a physical, psychological, and emotional level. Walking is an easily accessible way for most patients to experience these benefits, as it can be done almost anywhere and at little to no cost.
Further research is needed to confirm without a doubt that walking improves the health and wellbeing of cancer patients on a larger scale, however these results are a step in the right direction.
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