Breast cancer survivors who exercise have better mental health
11/21/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Breast cancer survivors will not only benefit physically from exercise, but also mentally. In a study published in the Journal of Cancer Science & Therapy, researchers discovered that long hikes can sustainably improve the mental health, level of physical activity, and quality of life of breast cancer survivors.

The researchers, who were from the University Hospital of Cologne and German Sport University Cologne in Germany and Australian Catholic University in Australia, looked at how a six-week long hike can improve the level of physical activity and mental health of breast cancer patients. They aimed to enhance breast cancer survivors' self-trust through a major challenge, which was to hike along the Way of St. James, one of the widely known long-distance trails in the world.

For the study, the research team recruited 45 breast cancer survivors who had completed their primary treatment. They divided the participants into two groups: a control group and an intervention group. The control group did not receive any intervention, while the intervention group was tasked to hike for more than 840 km in six weeks. Before the actual hike, the intervention group first underwent an eight-week plan.

The researchers measured the level of physical activity, quality of life, anxiety, and depression of the participants before the eight-week preparation period; right after the six-week hike; and one year after the six-week hike.

The findings showed that hiking increased the level of physical activity of breast cancer survivors during the entire study period. In addition, those in the intervention group experienced great improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms, and overall quality of life, both during and after the hike.

Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that long hikes can potentially enhance the level of physical activity, quality of life, and mental well-being of breast cancer survivors.

Cancer survivors and their mental health

It is common for many cancer survivors to have mixed feelings after treatment. Many cancer survivors will feel relieved, but some may also feel anxious or uncertain about the future or less positive about their health. This might be due to the cancer itself or its treatment has caused adverse side effects or physical changes. It might also be because their relationship with other people, be it family, friends, or colleagues, has changed. Here are five things cancer survivors should know about their mental health:

  • Recovery is a gradual process: Cancer survivors may feel relieved after treatment, but they may also worry about life after cancer. Recovering from cancer is a gradual process. It may take time to get back to the things you used to do before. You may be dependent on other people for help more than you are used to, and you may also worry about the cancer coming back. However, to feel these emotions is normal. Be patient about getting back to feeling like you used to before cancer and be open-minded on what your "new normal" looks like.
  • Chemo brain: Those who have undergone chemotherapy may have "chemo brain," which describes problems with thinking -- cognition, memory, attention -- that may occur as a result of receiving chemotherapy. These may affect patients during or after cancer treatments. Anxiety, depression, stress, trouble sleeping, and other emotional and mental health problems that cancer survivors may face can all contribute to chemo brain and make thinking and learning more difficult. With chemo brain, learning new facts or skills, concentrating, or remembering things during or after treatment may be difficult.
  • Talk about your mental health problems: Sharing your problems with other people may be difficult or uncomfortable, but it is just as important as sharing how you feel physically.
  • Other things that can help: Following a healthy lifestyle is also essential during the recovery process to improve one's well-being and long-term health. These include quitting smoking, gradually being more physically active, finding ways to reduce stress, and eating healthily. (Related: Cancer survivors are turning to a raw, organic vegan lifestyle to live cancer-free.)

Read more news stories and studies on natural post-cancer treatments by going to

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