Gwendolyn Thomas, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science and director of the Exercise Prescription Lab, and Maggie Bedillion, graduate student in the lab, spoke with Cancer Network about their research on exercise and its effect on depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
Previous research has shown that there is a link between cognitive impairment and depression in cancer patients, as well as shown that exercise can lessen depressive symptoms. Thomas and Bedillion discuss how these associations led them to do a study on the role of physical activity mitigating cognitive impairment and depression among breast cancer survivors.
“We know that depression can induce problems in cognition. We also know that physical activity can improve both depression and cognition. Our study examined whether depression symptoms mediate or help explain the effects of breast cancer treatment on cognitive difficulties. We also examined whether physical activity may help to mitigate these effects.”
“Making exercise more manageable and approachable is the key to helping people consistently engage in exercise and it is important to support them to make this a daily part of their life. Additionally, individualizing exercise prescriptions is a huge focus of research right now and it should be a focus of those working with breast cancer survivors. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms or side effects and they also don’t have the same barriers to exercise. Understanding these differences and using those individualized prescriptions is a big focus of what we do in our lab.”