The relationship between physical activity and stress within women treated for breast cancer


The diagnosis and related treatments for cancer can increase breast cancer survivors' experiences of stress, which is especially detrimental given the negative physical and mental health consequences of stress. Participation in physical activity may aid in the reduction of stress, as it has been negatively associated with correlates of stress (e.g., fatigue, depression) in women treated for breast cancer. As such, in order to further explore the protective effects of physical activity after treatment for breast cancer, a better understanding of the relationship between physical activity and stress in active breast cancer survivors is valuable. Using an experience sampling method, the purpose of the present study was to examine the between- and within- associations between physical activity and stress. Women (N = 20; Mean Age = 58) provided measures of stress six times per day for seven days and wore an accelerometer for seven days to measure their time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Multilevel modeling was used to test for daily MVPA as a predictor of stress. Contrary to expectations, daily MVPA was not a significant predictor of stress at the same time point (p > .05). However, there was a significant time by MVPA interaction with stress (gamma = -0.38, p < .05), indicating that when women engaged in more MVPA than their average, their stress decreased over time. These results demonstrate that physical activity is an important behaviour to target in interventions used to reduce experiences of stress among breast cancer survivors.

Acknowledgments: CGS-M: SSHRC