Exercising Control Study Shows Yoga Can Help Breast Cancer Survivors
Practicing yoga for as little as three months can reduce fatigue and lower inflammation in breast cancer survivors, according to a study at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). The results were better the more the women practiced.
At the study’s six-month point – three months after the formal yoga practice had ended – fatigue was 57 percent lower, on average, in women who had practiced yoga compared with the non-yoga group, and their inflammation was reduced by up to 20 percent.
Though many studies suggest that yoga has many health benefits, this was the largest known randomized controlled trial that included biological measures, says first author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD.
Two hundred breast cancer survivors participated in the study. All had completed treatment before beginning the study and were yoga novices. Those in the yoga group met twice weekly for 12 weeks. Women in the control group were wait-listed to receive the same yoga sessions after the trial was over. During the study, they were instructed to go about their normal routines and not to do yoga.
“This showed that modest yoga practice over several months could have substantial benefits for breast cancer survivors,” says Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, and a Distinguished University Professor at Ohio State. She is also a member of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research and of the OSUCCC – James Cancer Control Program.
The researchers believe study results could generalize to other groups who have issues with fatigue and inflammation, but the team focused on breast cancer survivors because of the rigors of treatment.
“One of the problems they face is a reduction in cardiorespiratory fitness,” Kiecolt-Glaser says. “The treatment is so debilitating and they are so tired, and the less you do physically, the less you’re able to do. It’s a downward spiral.
“That’s one reason we think there are higher levels of inflammation in cancer survivors, meaning that an intervention that reduces inflammation could be beneficial.”
Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.