In a new study, researchers found that exercise could improve anxiety and mood problems in older people with cancer.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Rochester Medical Center and other institutions.
Having cancer increases the chances of people experiencing anxiety and mood issues, which can affect emotional and social well-being.
In turn, this may lead people to discontinue cancer treatments—which can mean shortening their survival.
Previous research has shown that exercise could improve mental health in younger cancer patients.
However, few studies have looked at the effects of exercise on older adults with cancer.
Since most new cancer cases occur in adults aged 60 or older, the researchers designed a study to learn more.
In this study, the team focused on older cancer patients who received chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy can benefit older adults with cancer, even though older people receiving this type of treatment often experience higher rates of dangerous side effects.
Older adults often experience anxiety and other mood disorders during their treatment, and treating those problems with medications can often cause potentially dangerous side effects.
In addition, many anti-anxiety medications are potentially inappropriate for older adults.
The researchers examined the Exercise for Cancer Patients (EXCAP) program, a home-based, low- to moderate-intensity aerobic and resistance exercise program.
During the program, older cancer patients increased the length and intensity of their workouts over time.
For example, participants received an individually tailored, progressive walking routine, and they wore a pedometer and recorded their daily steps over six weeks, starting on their first day of chemotherapy treatment.
They were encouraged to gradually increase their steps by five to 20 percent every week.
For resistance exercise, they performed exercises with therapeutic exercise bands.
Participants were encouraged to perform 10 required exercises (such as squats and chest presses) and four optional exercises daily.
The team found that the patients in the exercise program had reduced anxiety symptoms and better social well-being.
In addition, the patients with worse anxiety before starting the program had larger improvements.
The team concluded that a low- to moderate-intensity home-based exercise could improve anxiety, mood, and social and emotional well-being for older patients with cancer who received chemotherapy treatments.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
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