Yoga May Reduce Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors
Researchers think improved sleep may be the key to benefits
And after their group sessions ended, most who were taking yoga gradually stopped practicing. Their physical activity went back to the level it was when they signed up for the study. Despite that, they continued to improve.
At the six-month mark, the women practicing yoga reported about 60 percent less fatigue than the women on the waiting list, and their measures of inflammation were 13 percent to 20 percent lower.
The longer they practiced yoga, the greater their improvements, Kiecolt-Glaser said.
The study was published Jan. 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Previous studies have reported similar benefits.
"It's pretty consistent now across a number of different studies that yoga can be useful for improving symptoms like fatigue and sleep disturbances, which are extremely prevalent in breast cancer survivors and cancer survivors, in general," said Lorenzo Cohen, director of the integrative medicine program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Cohen said one question the study doesn't answer is whether any kind of exercise might have yielded these benefits, or if it was something specific about yoga that made the difference.
"Ideally, a next step is to really see, is yoga something more than exercise? Is yoga something more than the physical aspect? From Eastern philosophies, our best guess is that yes, it will be something more than just exercise because it's a mind-body practice, not just a body practice," he said.
Cohen advises people who are new to yoga to start slowly.
"It's important that you never push your body. Any physical exercise can result in harm if you push too hard," he said. "You can get equal benefits if you touch your toes or not. Yoga is about the process and not the product."