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Nutrition and physical activity program helps cancer survivors maintain a healthy lifestyle: new research

22nd February 2018 - Cancer research Patient support

Survivors across NSW encouraged to participate in Cancer Council NSW’s ENRICHing Survivorship program

Cancer Council NSW and the University of Newcastle have released the results of a nutrition and physical activity trial for cancer survivors. The new data, published in the American Journal of Health Behaviour, show that trial participants who had completed the nutrition and physical activity intervention were able to maintain lifestyle improvements. Results showed weight and BMI remained stable and participants kept up increased levels of physical activity in the 12 months post trial¹.

“Both of those factors – physical activity and a healthy weight – have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, and improve the psychosocial health of cancer survivors, so those results are really promising,” said Annie Miller, Director of Cancer Support Services at Cancer Council NSW.

“We found that twelve months after the trial, 67 percent of participants continued to improve their level of physical activity, 63 percent maintained increased levels of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, and 46 percent maintained their weight,¹” Ms Miller continued.

Because cancer survivors face many physical and emotional challenges after treatment, Cancer Council NSW offers its own lifestyle program for cancer survivors: ENRICHing Survivorship.

ENRICHing Survivorship aims to inform, motivate and encourage participants to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Physical activities and nutrition information are coached in two-hour sessions, over an eight-week period.

Healthy lifestyle sessions are co-facilitated by an exercise specialist and dietitian. Sessions contain a mix of resistance and cardiovascular exercise as well as healthy eating knowledge and skill development. The program also includes a yoga and mindfulness session, taught by qualified tutors, and a peer support session, led by volunteers, which provide practical information and support.

“We encourage all cancer survivors in NSW to join the ENRICHing Survivorship program to help them move towards and maintain a healthier lifestyle, which will reduce their risk of cancer recurrence, and increase overall wellbeing,” Ms Miller continued.

“Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy weight after cancer is one of the most important things you can do. Physical activity can improve muscle strength, stamina, self-esteem, quality of life and reduce common side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, nausea, pain, anxiety and depression. It’s never too late to implement healthy habits into your daily routine,” Ms Miller concluded.

To view upcoming programs in your area and register your interest in attending the ENRICHing Survivorship program, visit www.cancercouncil.com.au/ENRICH.

– ENDS –

¹Stacey F, Lubans D, Chapman K, Bisquerra A, James E. Maintenance of Lifestyle Changes at 12-month Follow-up in a Nutrition and Physical Activity Trial for Cancer Survivors. Am J Health Behav. 2017; 41(6):784-795

Notes to editors:

About the ENRICH Study

The ENRICH study was supported by funding from the Australian Better Health Initiative: A joint Australian, State and Territory government initiative with additional funding and infrastructure support provided by Cancer Council NSW and Hunter Medical Research Institute.

About the ENRICHing Survivorship Program

The ENRICHing Survivorship program is a free group-based program comprised of eight, two hour, face to face, weekly sessions. The program introduces cancer survivors to a range of nutrition information, involvement in physical activity and practical information and discussion about adjusting to life following cancer treatment. A Carer, partner or family member are welcome, and encouraged, to attend with the survivor.

Since its launch as ENRICH in 2009, the ENRICHing Survivorship program has been continuing its roll-out to venues across NSW. The eight-week program is free and comprises weekly group-based sessions. The program has been adapted since its introduction and now includes a yoga and mindfulness session to enable participants to explore mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety and a peer support session which provides practical information and group discussion about adjusting to the changes following cancer treatment and aims to reduce the isolation of cancer survivorship.

Participants are screened for the following eligibility criteria:

  • Completed active cancer treatment but may be receiving ongoing adjunctive therapy e.g. Herceptin. There are no time constraints implemented, those affected by cancer can join anytime following completion of their active treatment.
  • Carer, partner or family member attending with those affected by cancer
  • Over 18 years of age
  • Physically able to participate
  • Commitment (willing to complete the full 8 week program).
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