Exercise is an important part of cancer patient’s survivor care plans, as research shows that exercise helps reduce symptoms of treatment-related side effects, reduce anxiety and depression, improve quality of life, and most importantly exercise reduces the risk of other cancers and improve survival for certain cancers.
The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors should exercise at least 150 minutes (vigorous exercise) per week.
Despite these recommendations a recent research study conducted in the Detroit, found that only 24% of African American survivors exercise 150 minutes or more per week at the time of their cancer diagnosis and 34% a year after diagnosis.
In this research study, 1500 African American participants with either lung, breast, prostate, or colon cancer reported on their physical activity at the time of their cancer diagnosis and yearly after that. Of these only 24% exercised >150 minutes per week at the time of diagnosis, and 60% exercised regularly but less than the recommended > 150 minutes per week. Prostate cancer survivors were most likely to exercise, whereas lung cancer survivors were least likely to exercise. Those participating in regular exercise also reported a better quality of life and lower depression. A year after the diagnosis, 34% of the survivors exercise >150 minutes per week.
Given that African American patients have a higher risk of dying from cancer than other ethnic groups, it is important to identify personalized interventions to help these survivors improve their physical activity. It is also important to encourage physical activity before the cancer diagnosis, since research shows exercise can lower the risk of developing cancer.
Technology-enhanced approaches can give African American cancer survivors personalized coaching or assistance and sustain their motivation for extended periods of time. These approaches are available on cell phones, reducing some of the barriers cancer survivors are faced with such as distance.