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Jun 09, 2014 04:48 PM EDT

Many Breast Cancer Patients Do Not Exercise Enough

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Exercise may aid recovery after breast cancer diagnosis but most patients are not active enough, according to a recent study BBC News reported.

Researchers found that most breast cancer patients do not meet national physical activity guidelines after they were diagnosed. The findings indicate that efforts to promote physical activity in breast cancer patients may need to be significantly enhanced.

"Despite compelling evidence demonstrating the benefits of physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer, it is clear that more work needs to be done to promote physical activity in patients with breast cancer, especially among African-American women," Brionna Hair of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told MedPage Today.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the American Cancer Society, recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week for general health benefits and for chronic disease prevention and management.

For the study, researchers assessed pre- and post-diagnosis physical activity levels in more than 1,500 women aged 20 to 74 years who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011 in 44 counties of North Carolina.

They found that only 35 percent of breast cancer survivors met current physical activity guidelines post-diagnosis. A decrease in activity approximately six months after diagnosis was reported by 59 percent of patients, with the average participant reducing activity by 15 metabolic equivalent hours -- equivalent to about five hours per week of brisk walking.

When compared with white women, African-American women were about 40 percent less likely to meet national physical activity guidelines post-diagnosis, although their reported weekly post-diagnosis physical activity was not significantly different from that of White women.

Hair noted that it's important to realize that African-American women experience higher mortality from breast cancer than other groups in the United States.

"Medical care providers should discuss the role physical activity plays in improving breast cancer outcomes with their patients, and strategies that may be successful in increasing physical activity among breast cancer patients need to be comprehensively evaluated and implemented," Hair said.

The findings were recently published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

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