New research published from the American Cancer Society in the journal Cancer suggests that older cancer survivors and older adults in general benefit from physical exertion and less-sedentary lifestyles. The study follows recent recommendations from the ACS that adults get 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity weekly. The guidelines also recommend limiting sedentary behaviors such as screen-based entertainment.
ACS researchers led by Dr. Erika Rees-Punia saw the need to find ways to help the growing number of older cancer survivors. There are almost 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States today, many of whom are reaching their older years.
Physical activity has been shown many times to be beneficial for both mental and physical health, no matter how old you are. In this study, Rees-Punia and her colleagues looked at data from 78,000 participants in the ACS's Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. With participants at an average 78 years old and identified as cancer survivors and cancer-free adults, the study analyzed the self-reported aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities, sitting time, and mental and physical health among the cohort.
The research team found that independent of cancer history, the differences in mental and physical health between the most and least active, and the least and most sedentary, were significant. “The findings of the current study provide evidence of the importance of increased MVPA and decreased sitting for improved health in older adults with or without a prior cancer diagnosis,” write the authors.
"The findings reinforce the importance of moving more and sitting less for both physical and mental health, no matter your age or history of cancer," concludes Rees-Punia. "This is especially relevant now as so many of us, particularly cancer survivors, may be staying home to avoid COVID-19 exposure, and may be feeling a little isolated or down. A simple walk or other physical activity that you enjoy may be good for your mind and body."