Cancer Comebacks - Get REAL & Heel
By Ellen de Graffenreid
Last year, the American College of Sports Medicine issued guidelines confirming what UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center members Diane Groff, EdD, and Claudio Battaglini, PhD have been saying for several years – exercise, physical activity and recreational therapy have multiple benefits for cancer patients and survivors.
The dynamic duo, both members of the Department of Exercise and Sports Science, are so sure about these benefits for those facing cancer that they co-founded Get REAL & Heel, a program for breast cancer survivors that integrates individualized prescriptive exercise with recreational therapy. The program works with patients and survivors to develop an individualized plan that manage cancer treatment related symptoms and increase chances of survivorship and quality of life.
Working with program participants, Groff and Battaglini published a paper this February, in which they tested the hypothesis that participation in mindful leisure activities can help breast cancer patients and survivors overcome some of the negative psychological and social consequences of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Study participants reported feeling more in control of their emotional states, success in integrating a relaxation biofeedback technique into everyday life and a more positive overall emotional state.
In 2009, this dynamic duo published a groundbreaking study that examined the effects of exercise on leukemia patients undergoing treatment. This preliminary study showed that exercise could not only be tolerated and safely administered on this group of patients but perhaps promote some benefits including reduction in overall fatigue and depression and the potential of positive changes or at least maintenance in cardiorespiratory function and overall quality of life. The study has received a lot of attention and interest from researchers around the globe.
“The treatment for acute leukemia has really harsh side effects,” says Battaglini. “It might not sound like exercise would help with fatigue and other symptoms, but the results of this preliminary study suggest that exercise might be as beneficial for these patients as it has been shown to be in other types of cancers. It is an exciting finding and we are looking forward to additional research to understand this phenomenon.”
Both Groff and Battaglini model the active lifestyle – Battaglini will be running the upcoming Tar Heel 10 Miler in support of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Groff is training for an upcoming 150 mile bike ride. In addition, the program holds a fun run/walk each year as a fundraiser.
# # #
Ellen de Graffenreid is the Director of Communications and Marketing at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She has served in leadership positions in academic and health care marketing for a decade. A former distance swimmer, she ran her first half-marathon in 2010.