Dr. Jeff Vallance’s new book Fighting Breast Cancer with Exercise is now available on iTunes. He talks about the book, and his reason for writing it.
Q: What’s the concept of the book, in a nutshell?
Jeff: Fight Breast Cancer with Exercise is one of the first evidence-based, patient-centered exercise resources designed specifically for breast cancer survivors. My co-author Dr. Kerry Courneya and I combined 20 years of research that was compiled from hundreds of studies. What the research shows us is that being active during and after breast cancer treatment is one of the most important things a person can do for their physical and mental health. What studies have also shown is that survivors who are physically active have healthier lives and live longer and their risk of the cancer returning is lower.
For example, one study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that breast cancer survivors who walked briskly for three to five days per week significantly reduced their chances of dying from breast cancer compared to survivors who were not active. The survivors who walked at a moderate intensity for three to five hours had the highest risk reduction, approximately 50 percent.
Q: What are the best types of exercises for breast cancer survivors?
Jeff: The best type of exercise is whatever type you’re going to enjoy doing! A lot of people, particularly at this time of year, jump into a fitness centre membership and they do it for awhile and then they lose motivation and interest. But if you like tennis, walking the dog, or yoga, for example, you’ll be more prone to keep doing these activities.
Many of us think of exercise as going on the treadmill. It is that, but it can also be something as simple as going for a daily brisk walk. For those who are just starting to exercise, I would suggest going for a walk. For the first five minutes, start at a brisk pace, then slow down for 15 minutes, and then pick up the pace for another five minutes, gradually doing more and more each day. Your lungs and heart will get stronger and you’ll feel the difference. It’s amazing. It’s empowering
Q: How long did it take to do the research for this book?
Jeff: The first study that Dr. Kerry Courneya and I did took about three years. When we first developed the book, we sent out the contents of it to various experts ranging from oncologists, certified exercise specialists, health education specialists, and breast cancer survivors. We gathered extensive feedback from these experts. The book was then tested in an experimental study involving 377 women, on average three years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. We found that women receiving the resource reported an extra 30 minutes of exercise per week compared to women not receiving the resource. Women receiving the resource as well as a step pedometer reported an extra 90 minutes. We found these tools help. This study was peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Q: Does the book give breast cancer survivors an actual exercise regime?
Jeff: This book gives breast cancer survivors a number of helpful steps they can follow to improve their health through exercise. We provide ways to goal set, plan and track their exercises. For example, we have a Physical Activity Calendar at the back of the resource where they can keep a record of their steps as well as other exercises. We know self-monitoring is a helpful way to get active, and stay active. It might be good to mention, given the current time of year, that we also include tips on where people can exercise even during the cold winter months.
Q: Why are you passionate about this topic?
Jeff: I’ve seen the power of exercise, not just for cancer survivors, but for all people. But what was really amazing for me to see was how that power can affect women going into chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. You can read studies but once you see it, it’s very powerful. During one of our research study, there was a woman in her late 70s who was going into chemo for a six month period and now, on top of that, she was going to be exercising three days a week. And she had never exercised before! Out of 78 exercise sessions in our fitness centre, she didn’t miss one. And in the process, everything about her changed. She lit up. She became much more upbeat. It was amazing to see that transformation. I believe exercise is a powerful drug that has a profound impact on us.