08/29/2012 12:47 am ET

What Do Cancer Patients Think About Exercise?

Exercise is encouraged for cancer patients -- even if they are going through treatments. But a small new study from the Mayo Clinic suggests that some cancer patients still aren't prioritizing physical fitness, and their oncologists aren't talking to them about it.

"There was a real sense of 'What I do every day, that's my exercise,'" study researcher Dr. Andrea Cheville, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. "Most were not aware that inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including symptoms of cancer."

Cheville's study, published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, included 20 lung cancer patients who were asked about their exercise habits, cancer symptoms, reasons for exercising or not exercising, and what they were told about exercising from their doctors.

The researchers found that a lot of the cancer patients said their symptoms prevented them from exercising regularly. And, none of them said that their doctors had talked to them about exercise, other than a "general encouragement to 'stay active,'" researchers wrote in the study.

The researchers also found that the cancer patients weren't all that receptive to encouragement to exercise from other health professionals who weren't their doctors.

However, there's much evidence to show that exercise benefits people who have cancer or who have survived cancer. A 2010 study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that exercise helped to decrease fatigue among prostate and breast cancer patients.

And yet another study presented this year at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that it could also decrease depression in breast cancer patients.

Officially, American Cancer Society guidelines recommend that doctors encourage their cancer patients to eat a healthy diet and exercise. The guidelines were issued earlier this year.