Breast Cancer Survivors Improve Memory with Physical Activity, Exercise

Breast Cancer Survivors Improve Memory with Physical Activity, Exercise

Northwestern University researchers found in a recent study, that breast cancer survivors who engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can improve subjective memory, relieve stress and benefit psychologically overall.

The study, published in Psycho-Oncologyalso revealed that the long believed culprits of memory issues – chemotherapy or radiation treatment – may not be to blame, after all.

“Our research suggests these self-reported memory problems may be emotionally related,” lead author Siobhan Phillips, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois, said in a news release. “These women are frightened, stressed, fatigued, tapped out emotionally and have low self-confidence, which can be very mentally taxing and can lead to perceived memory problems.”

Subjective memory impairment (SMI), the perception and satisfaction of memory function, is one of the most commonly reported cognitive problems among survivors but ranges widely from 14 percent to 95 percent, depending on the measurement method used.

To examine the relationship between physical activity and SMI researchers investigated 1,477 post-treatment breast cancer survivors who were asked to complete measures of physical activity, self-efficacy, distress (depression, concerns about recurrence, perceived stress, anxiety), fatigue and subjective memory impairment at study entry and again at 6-month follow-up. A random 362 also wore accelerometers to track and measure activity.

The results of the study,“Relationship between self-reported and objectively measured physical activity and subjective memory impairment in breast cancer survivors: role of self-efficacy, fatigue and distress,” showed that increased physical activity is associated with higher levels of self-confidence, lower distress, less fatigue, and lower levels of perceived memory impairment.

Additionally, the results showed that breast cancer survivors walked briskly, jogged, or took an exercise class had fewer memory problems.

“We found moderate to vigorous physical activity actually benefits women psychologically and that, in turn, helps their memory,” Phillips said.