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  • Patients With Colorectal Cancer Heed Physical Activity Advice – If They Get It

    The good news: a large-scale British study has found that individuals with colorectal cancer (CRC) who can recall a clinician giving them advice to stay as physically active as possible tend to do just that.

    The bad news: less than a third of CRC patients remember getting any such advice in the first place.

    In a study in the May issue of BMJ Open (.pdf), researchers presented findings based on a 2013 survey of 15,254 individuals in the United Kingdom who had received a CRC diagnosis in 2010-2011. The survey gathered demographic and other data—including rates of physical activity—and asked the question, "Did you receive any advice or information on physical activity or exercise?"

    Only 31% answered yes. And what makes this number particularly powerful is that receiving advice on physical activity (PA) seems to make a difference with patients.

    Researchers found that among the patients who recalled receiving PA advice, 51% were engaged in brisk physical activity for at least 30 minutes 1-4 days a week, with 25% participating in PA for at least 30 minutes 5-7 days a week. Those numbers dropped to 42% and 20%, respectively, among patients who didn't remember receiving PA advice.

    Authors write that while some clinicians may be waiting for the results of an ongoing clinical trial focused on the relationship of PA rates to CRC survival rates before considering giving PA advice, "in light of strong evidence for a number of other important outcomes, such as reductions in cancer-related fatigue and improved quality of life, it is important for clinicians to be advising their patients with CRC to be physically active."

    Other findings from the study:

    • Men (35%) were more likely than women (25%) to recall being given PA advice.
    • Patients 55 and younger recalled receiving advice more often than older patients (37% vs 20%).
    • Patients with higher socioeconomic status (SES) remembered getting advised on PA with more frequency than patients at lower SES levels (32% vs 28%).
    • Among patients in remission, 32% recalled receiving advice, compared with 27% of nonremission patients.

    Authors acknowledge that "giving PA advice may not always be easy for health care professionals" because of a "lack of appropriate support," uncertainty about what to recommend, or perceived time constraints.

    But these barriers must be overcome, they argue.

    "Our results strengthen the case for clinicians to recommend PA to their patients with cancer," authors write, citing the differences reported in the survey. "This difference is potential of real practical significance."

    Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

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