It is well known that exercise benefits cancer survivors. A new study published in the journal Oncology Nursing Forum examined whether group exercise classes centered on cooperative goals and experiences would benefit women with breast cancer more than personal training.
The research focused on 26 women who had stage I or II breast cancer. They were each given exercise instruction twice weekly for a duration of eight weeks. Half of them received personal training, and half participated in a “group dynamics-based” exercise class, which involved cooperative goals. The study’s creators hoped to offer a team environment for the participants.
"We help them work toward a common task, a common goal, versus having an instructor at the front of the room telling people what to do. For example, instead of saying, 'I'm going to walk three times per week,' maybe they set a group goal, like, 'By the end of the intervention, as a group we will have walked 100,000 steps,” Heather Leach, who is the study's first author and an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University, told EurekAlert.
Both groups in the study participated in vigorous physical activities such as leg and chest presses, and both displayed similar, significant improvement in this area at the end of the eight weeks. But the cancer survivors who joined the group-dynamics class had better results than those in personal training in two areas: overall physical activity and measures of quality of life.
The authors see this small exploration of cooperative, team-modelled exercise for cancer survivors as evidence of how emotional and physical health are connected. The team received a $718,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to integrate the group dynamics-based exercise intervention into the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s BFitBwell Exercise Program for Cancer Survivors, which is held at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in Aurora, CO.
"We hope to confirm the program's effectiveness, and then moving beyond that, demonstrate cost-effectiveness, and look at how to best implement this in clinics and communities," Leach said.