Yoga has long been considered a great way to strengthen and tone the body, among other advantages. And now, those benefits are extending to breast cancer patients—at least that seems to be the case, according to new research from The University of Texas MD Andersen Cancer Center. Results of a recent study revealed that breast cancer patients, undergoing radiation therapy, who also incorporated yoga into their daily routines, experienced reduced fatigue, lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and improved physical functioning in general.
The study included 163 women, averaging 52 years old with varying stages of breast cancer. The women were randomly placed into three groups. One group practiced yoga throughout radiation treatment, a second group practiced simple stretching and the third group didn’t participate in either stretching or yoga. In addition to collecting saliva samples, participants reported on their physical and mental well-being and electrocardiogram tests were administered at regular intervals during and after radiation treatment.
Following radiation treatment, women who did yoga or simple stretching reported reduced feelings of fatigue. At one, three and six months after treatment, participants who practiced yoga reported overall better feelings of physical and mental health, and often reported more positive perceptions of their experiences with cancer. Most importantly, the group who practiced yoga demonstrated lower levels of cortisol throughout the day, indicating yoga’s ability to reduce stress levels, which have been known to have detrimental affects of cancer patients’ outcomes.