A new study published in the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) journal Cancer suggests that Black cancer survivors should consider regularly walking, bicycling or swimming to help improve their quality of life, according to a press release.

Compared with other racial or ethnic groups, African Americans are more likely to die from most cancers. Although most cancer survivors are not meeting the ACS’s current recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, African Americans are particularly likely to have lower levels of physical activity.

For the study, researchers assessed levels of physical activity among Black cancer survivors and examined the relationship between such physical activity and their health-related quality of life (physical, social, emotional and functional well-being).

With data from the population-based Detroit Research on Center Survivors (ROCS) study, researchers examined African Americans diagnosed with the four most common cancers—lung, breast, prostate and colorectal. The study participants completed baseline and annual follow-up surveys to update their health and health behaviors.

ROCS is the largest study to date of African-American cancer survivors in the United States and will over time include 5,560 cancer survivors.

Of the study’s first 1,500 participants, 60% reported regular physical activity engagement, with 24% reporting at least 150 minutes per week. Prostate cancer survivors were most likely to be physically active (28%), while lung cancer survivors were least likely (18%).

Many became physically active over time. Just one year later, after the first follow-up survey, the amount of moderate to vigorous exercise survivors reported increased from an average of 76 minutes to 110 minutes. About a third met ACS recommendations at one year, compared with one quarter at the study’s start.

Survivors who were physically active regularly had a better quality of life, less depression and an overall improvement in well-being. “Identifying barriers to participation in regular exercise and developing interventions to reduce these barriers in African-American cancer survivors will be critical for improving outcomes in this population and minimizing cancer health disparities,” said Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, MPH, PhD, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University in Detroit, the study’s corresponding author.

For related coverage, read “Linda Answers Cancer Survivors’ Questions About Healthy Living”,  “For Breast Cancer Survivors, Group Exercise Can Increase Quality of Life” and “What Fitness Gives Me”.