04/13/2012 11:39 pm ET

Exercise Could Lower Fatigue And Depression In Breast Cancer Patients: Study

Exercise could be the secret weapon to help breast cancer patients combat common side effects of cancer and cancer treatments.

A new study that was presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine shows that physical activity could help women being treated for breast cancer to have less fatigue and depression.

The study included 240 women with non-metastatic breast cancer, who were enrolled in the study anywhere from four to 10 weeks after they'd undergone surgery for their cancer. Some women who were put in a 10-week program where they learned Cognitive Behavioral Stress Management, while the other women completed a one-day "self help" group. Researchers also kept track of how much exercise all the study participants were getting.

The researchers found that the women who exercised the most during the time between the surgery and starting their assigned therapy were also the ones whose fatigue got in the way of their daily lives the least. In addition, these women's moods were not as depressed.

"Women who are physically active may also have more confidence in their own ability to continue with family-related, household, work-related, or social activities, which bring meaning and satisfaction to their lives," Jamie M. Stagl, M.S., doctoral student in at the University of Miami, said in a statement. "This may lead to appraisals of lower fatigue, heightened quality of life, and less depression."

Similarly, a study published earlier this month in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons showed that taking regular walks could help to decrease exhaustion commonly felt by cancer patients.

That study included 102 people who had just had surgery done for their pancreatic or periampullary cancers. Eighty-five percent of them reported having fatigue at a moderate to severe level.

However, the researchers from Thomas Jefferson University found that people who walked 90 to 150 extra minutes a week had a decrease in their fatigue of 27 percent. Comparatively, people who were not instructed to do any sort of walking exercise after being discharged from the hospital experienced a decrease in fatigue of 19 percent.