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Walking boosts life quality in advanced cancer patients, find nurse researchers

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Walking could improve the quality of life of people with advanced cancer, according to a new study by nurse researchers.

The small-scale study, by the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, looked at the difference taking regular walks made to patients with various types of cancers in advanced stages.

“Patients reported that it made a real difference to their quality of life”

Jo Armes

The findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, suggested that walking had a range of benefits for this group of patients, including boosting physical and emotional wellbeing.

The study authors noted that levels of physical activity tended to drop significantly among people undergoing cancer treatment, who may also not feel like travelling to supervised exercise sessions.

As a result, the research team were keen to test the idea of a walking-based scheme that had the advantage of being low cost, flexible and easily accessible.

More than 40 people, under the care of two different London trusts, took part in the trial and embarked on a 12-week programme called CanWalk.

They were given the charity Macmillan’s information booklet on being active and had a short “motivational interview” where they were encouraged to walk for at least half an hour every other day.

Participants were also advised to attend a weekly walking group led by volunteers and provided by Macmillan.

The study, which was funded by the charity Dimbleby Cancer Care, found patients were able to do the activity and it was both popular and beneficial.

Participants reported walking improved their overall quality of life and helped them to maintain a positive attitude towards their illness.

Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London

Cancer patients benefit from walking, finds nurse study

Jo Armes

Benefits such as losing weight and feeling fitter – as well as using pedometers – spurred participants on to walk more.

The study team concluded the intervention could be successfully delivered by health professionals such as nurses in a clinical setting.

Meanwhile, the results could quite easily be measured using off-the-shelf technology to track the activity of patients.

Lead researcher Jo Armes, a senior lecturer at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, said the study was a “first step” in exploring how walking could help people with advanced cancer.

“Walking is a free and accessible form of physical activity, and patients reported that it made a real difference to their quality of life,” she said.

She added: “Further research is needed with a larger number of people to provide definitive evidence that walking improves both health outcomes and social and emotional wellbeing in this group of people.”

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