Exercise linked to improved memory in breast cancer survivors

In a study focused on exploring the link between memory and exercise, 1,477 breast cancer survivors who had completed surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy responded to an on-line survey about their physical activity and their memory.  Roughly half were still on hormonal treatment and a quarter of them (362) also wore activity monitors so that researchers could measure how well what they said matched with what they did.  Participants were asked how they felt about their ability to exercise and remember things, and also about their levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue. Six months after they completed the first survey, they were asked to complete a second survey with the same questions, which allowed researchers to look at how each of these things may affect the other.  The women who increased their physical activity had decreased levels of stress and fatigue, and felt better about their ability to remember things. The results suggest that the women who were most successful in reaching all of these benefits did so simply because they believed they were capable of increasing their physical activity.

What does this information mean to you, or how can you use it?

Memory loss is a problem many people experience as they get older.  While the women who participated in this study were relatively young (56 years old), the results still provide good news for breast cancer survivors and perhaps survivors of other cancers, as well.  One of the benefits of exercise is that improves circulation to all of your body organs, including your brain.  Other benefits include a reduction in stress and anxiety.  All of these effects can help clear the mind and help you think better.

This is an interesting study digging into the relationships between physical activity and certain mental aspects of health. One drawback is that the researchers did not directly measure the women’s cognitive function, so we only know how they felt about their memory.  Therefore, the results may not be as strong as other studies, but they were positive and there is really no “downside” to exercise and to feeling better about yourself.

Therefore, why wait?  Make a plan. The people that have the best success exercising are those who are well supported.  Do you have a friend who can be your exercise buddy? If not, you may want to get a personal trainer, or perhaps you can join a walking group or an exercise class (spinning and Zumba are great choices).  By connecting with others, it will keep you accountable.  It also is likely to make your exercise session more enjoyable.




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