FRIDAY, Oct. 12, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancer survivors who believe in their ability to follow through with an exercise program are more likely to continue working out after their treatment ends, according to a new study.
Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) pointed out that physical activity can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and said women can learn the skills needed to help them overcome barriers to regular exercise.
"We can teach breast cancer survivors how to enlist the support of others and how to identify exercise-related barriers, as well as provide proven strategies for them to overcome those barriers," the study's lead author, Paul Loprinzi, a former doctoral student at OSU who is now a faculty member at Bellarmine University, said in an OSU news release.
For the study, published in the October issue of Supportive Care in Cancer, the researchers examined what motivated 69 older breast cancer survivors to follow through on their workout regimen once their supervised exercise program ended.
The study revealed that women with greater confidence in their ability to follow through on their exercise program despite fatigue or other obstacles were much more likely to do so. Women with the most confidence were 10 percent more likely than others to still be physically active six months after their supervised program ended.
For breast cancer survivors, physical exercise can help ease common side effects of cancer treatment, such as fatigue, depression and lost muscle strength, the researchers noted.
"Especially important is minimizing weight gain after breast cancer treatment because excessive weight gain can increase the risk of developing reoccurring breast cancer," added Loprinzi.
Instructors who supervise exercise programs can help survivors develop confidence in their ability to continue working out on their own, the researchers said.
And cancer survivors make good instructors, another study author, Bradley Cardinal, professor of exercise science at OSU, said in the news release. "When people who lead the classes are cancer survivors themselves, this can help because they become a role model. Also, they can help prepare the participants for that time when they have to exercise on their own," he said.
Replacing a problem behavior with a positive one, such as taking a walk whenever stressed, is one strategy that can be effective, the study authors noted.
"In making the transition from group to being on your own, committing yourself by developing an activity schedule and identifying activities that are enjoyable, even signing a 'contract' with a social support partner would be useful," said Cardinal. "Rewarding yourself for small successes and gradually building on that is also important. It is critical to not expect too much too soon."
The American Cancer Society has more about lifestyle changes after breast cancer.