A study from Taiwan has revealed that walking several times a week could help lung cancer patients improve their sleep and quality of life, which are significantly affected during and after treatment. As a consequence, the cancer prognosis worsens. The researchers said a similar link between these factors is seen in breast and colorectal cancer patients.

Senior author Chia-Chin Lin, a nursing professor at Taipei Medical University, noted that physical activities such as home-based walking programs can truly lead to an improved quality of life. The common belief thinks that lung cancer patients are too fragile because they have a very limited cardiopulmonary function.

Cancer patient
The American Lung Association has informed that lung cancer is the leading cancer that takes the lives of men and women in the Unites States. By the end of 2016, about 225,000 people will have received lung cancer diagnosis. Image credit: National Cancer Institute.

Anne Berger, a professor of nurse oncology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, told Reuters Health that the Oncology Nursing Society and other groups have since 2000 looked for more ways to improve the quality of life and sleep of cancer patients through sleep, exercise, meditation, and behavioral therapy.

Berger pointed out that this focus clearly reflected the “survivorship movement with cancer patients” and remarked the importance of helping millions of cancer survivors to stay healthy and making efforts to avoid cancer reoccurrence and heart disease. She added that most cancer patient investigations usually underestimate the role sleep time plays in patient recovery as they focus more on exercise and nutrition.

How home-based walking programs proved effective

This is the first time a team of researchers has conducted a randomized controlled trial that focuses on the long-term effects of walking programs on lung cancer patients by including data six months later, the authors wrote in the British Journal of Cancer.

Lin and his colleagues have conducted several types of research in the past few years to find out more about the association between physical activity, sleep and quality of life in patients diagnosed with lung cancer. This time, they conducted a randomized controlled trial and studied 111 lung cancer patients between the ages of 30 and 80. Nearly two-thirds of them had stage 1 cancer.

Seniors waking
“In 2013, 212,584 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer, including 111,907 men and 100,677 women,” as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image credit: National Council on Aging.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups. A group of 56 patients was recommended to take part in a 12-week-based walking program at a moderate intensity for 40 minutes, three times a week.

They participated in weekly exercise counseling sessions and were asked to wear wrist monitors to measure total sleep time, sleep onset time and sleep quality, which was assessed at three to six months after the program.

The other group of 55 patients received regular medical care and had the chance to take part in exercise counseling after the study concluded.

“Walking is safe, feasible and effective for patients. Just walk!” Lin said.  “With advances in lung cancer treatment, survival improves significantly,” the senior author continued, as reported by Reuters Health. “Any interventions that can improve symptoms and quality of life are valuable.”

The researchers also took into account the circadian rhythms or rest-activity rhythms. They measured how consistently study participants woke and went to sleep each day. Lin explained these rhythms play a major role in heart rate, sleep, inflammation, metabolism and other aspects of health. The author said the risk for several chronic diseases is increased by altered circadian function. Exercising proved to be associated with improved sleep quality and patients with the most altered circadian rhythms got the most benefit.

Like any other study, this one has its limitations. Grutsch told Fox News that this trial uses a home-based walking program that contains subjective information provided by patients. Additionally, it did not take into account at what point the participants exercised during their circadian cycle, and this could affect health outcomes.

“Clinicians have discovered that cancer patients with a dismal prognosis but who have an intact circadian rhythm live much longer than expected,” noted Jim Grutsch, an epidemiology professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago, as reported by Fox News.

Free To Breathe, free to feel

Every year, lung cancer causes more deaths than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. However, lung cancer research and advocacy nonprofit Free To Breathe has reported that these cancers receive about six times more in research funding each time a patient dies compared to funding for lung cancer.

The organization has launched the #FlipToBreathe campaign to encourage participants to film themselves flipping over objects to vent their feelings over the disease that took the lives of their loved ones.

Based on social media, the project has reached more than 260,000 people on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and HealthUnlocked. The campaign, which aims at raising awareness and money for the improvement of survival rates, has raised more than $300 since it was launched on November 1.

Source: Fox News