Survival of the Fittest

I know it’s not always easy to summon up the motivation to workout. But here’s some news to keep you moving. In a recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, scientists at Duke University Medical Center discovered that women with advanced breast cancer who have higher levels of fitness tend to live longer than women with lower levels of fitness.

“We know that exercise tolerance tests, which measure cardiopulmonary function, are among some of the most important indicators of health and longevity in people who do not have cancer; however, relatively little research has been done assessing the clinical importance of these tests in patients with cancer,” said Lee Jones, PhD, associate professor at Duke and lead author of the study. “Our work provides initial insights into the effects a cancer diagnosis and subsequent therapy may have on how the heart, lungs and rest of the body work together during exercise.”

Investigators collected data from 248 women in different stages of treatment for breast cancer while they were at rest and while they exercised.  They discovered that women receiving care for breast cancer have significantly impaired cardio-pulmonary function that can persist for years after they have completed treatment.

While breast cancer treatments have reduced death rates from the disease by roughly 2.2 percent a year since 1990, the regimens often take a toll on women’s lungs, heart, blood and skeletal muscle. Compounding the problem is that during treatment and after, women are often less active and gain weight, which can also affect their heart and lung function.  For some cancer patients, the decline in fitness level was severe. One-third of the women studied had a fitness level so low that it could prevent them from doing household tasks, walking up stairs or walking a half-mile.

Jones said the findings of this study indicate that exercise may be a good intervention for cancer patients both during and after therapy. His team at Duke has several studies underway examining the effects of exercise training on women with breast cancer, plus patients with other cancers.

So the next time you think about blowing off that workout, think again. 😀

How do you stay motivated to work out?


2 Responses to Survival of the Fittest

  • kim says:

    Hi Cara, I am so glad to have found your website and blog! What a wonderful place to visit! I can’t wait to check out your book as it will be wonderful to have a resource to direct newly diagnosed cancer survivors. Keep up the great job!

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