Washignton | Exercise may alleviate stress and benefit breast cancer survivors psychologically, which in turn could improve their memory, a new study has found.
Researchers also found that memory problems appear to be related to the high stress load cancer survivors experience, and may not be specific to chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Our research suggests these self-reported memory problems may be emotionally related, said Siobhan Phillips, assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the US. 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, said Phillips.
In the study, more physical activity was associated with higher levels of self-confidence, lower distress and less fatigue, which in turn is associated with lower levels of perceived memory impairment. We found moderate to vigorous physical activity actually benefits women psychologically and that, in turn, helps their memory, Phillips said.
Breast cancer survivors who had higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity – brisk walking, biking, jogging or an exercise class – had fewer subjective memory problems. Subjective memory is an individual’s perception of her memory.
Researchers looked at memory and exercise in breast cancer survivors in two study arms: one in self-reported data for 1,477 women across the country; the other in accelerometers worn by 362 women. The findings linking improved memory to higher levels of physical activity were consistent across both groups.