Yoga Beneficial in Helping Cancer Survivors Combat Fatigue

YogaYoga proves beneficial in helping cancer survivors combat fatigue and reduce inflammation. Ohio State University professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, her husband Researcher Ronald Glaser, and her colleagues chronicled results of yoga in two hundred women ages 27 to 76 recruited as study participants. Results of the study were published January 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Kiecolt-Glaser, who teaches psychology and psychiatry, studies the effects of stress on health and how it can be reduced. She notes that fatigue significantly limits the activity level of women who experience sleep disturbances at night; in turn, regular sleep disturbances are a catalyst for fatigue.

Cancer survivors are often tired and do not have the physical resources to deal with the fatigue that comes from sleep disturbances. “Increasing fatigue means less activity and less activity means increasing fatigue. This type of pattern leads to an overall decline in health.” Kiecolt-Glaser said.

The effects of chemotherapy and radiation impair cancer survivors from obtaining the benefits of sleep. Kiecolt-Glaser reports as many as 30 to 40 percent of cancer survivors experience sleep loss years before starting treatment. It continues with treatment, causing fatigue throughout the day.

Study participants were required to have completed treatment for cancer within three years of starting the study. They also had to be new to yoga, healthy in other respects, and terminated treatment for at least two months.

Women were queried on lifestyle habits prior to and after the study. They answered in-depth questions on support systems, mental health, energy levels, sleep patterns, level of activity, and dietary habits.

Placed in one of two groups, half of the women were assigned yoga classes with the remaining being wait listed. For three months, the first group practiced Hatha Yoga during 90-minute classes twice a week. The classes incorporated the flowing gentle poses of the Eastern relaxation meditative art form.

After three months, the yoga group reported increased energy and better sleep. Yoga class proved beneficial to the group of cancer survivors in helping combat fatigue. In comparison, the wait-listed women did not report improvements.

Many of the yoga participants stopped practicing when the three months of classes ended. They went back to the same level of activity before taking part in the study. Even after ending yoga classes, they reported improvements.

“The longer women stayed with the practice of yoga the better they felt. After six months, 60 percent of yoga participants reported experiencing a significant decrease in fatigue than women who were wait listed. Inflammation measures were reduced 13 to 20 percent,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.

At the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, director of integrative medicine Lorenzo Cohen, shares evidence in studies has been consistent in showing the benefits of yoga with cancer survivors.

“It hasn’t been determined if other types of exercise have provided the same advantages of yoga,” said Cohen. The benefits of Eastern philosophies address physical and mind-body practice, which may, call for specific research that show if yoga is more than simply exercise,” he added. Yoga is proven beneficial in helping cancer survivors combat fatigue and sleep disturbances.

By C. Imani Williams


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