Higher Physical Activity, Lower Sitting Time May Be Associated with Superior Physical, Mental Health

October 26, 2020
Hannah Slater
Hannah Slater

Researchers indicated these findings provide evidence of the importance of increased moderate to vigorous physical activity and decreased sitting for improved health in older adults with or without a prior cancer diagnosis.

Older adults with higher physical activity and lower sitting time have superior overall physical and mental health, according to study results published in Cancer.1

Researchers indicated these findings provide evidence of the importance of increased moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and decreased sitting for improved health in older adults with or without a prior cancer diagnosis.

“The findings reinforce the importance of moving more and sitting less for both physical and mental health, no matter your age or history of cancer,” first author Erika Rees-Punia, PhD, MPH, said in a press release.2 “This is especially relevant now as so many of us, particularly cancer survivors, may be staying home to avoid COVID-19 exposure, and may be feeling a little isolated or down. A simple walk or other physical activity that you enjoy may be good for your mind and body.”

In this study, self-reported aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities, sitting time, and mental and physical health were assessed among nearly 78,000 participants included in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Participants were grouped as survivors who were 1 to 5 years after diagnosis (n = 3718), survivors who were 6 to 10 years after diagnosis (n = 4248), and cancer-free participants (n = 69,860).

In 2009, study participants completed MVPA, sitting, and Patient‐Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Global Mental Health (GMH)/Global Physical Health (GPH) surveys. Overall, the mean GMH and GPH scores were statistically significantly higher in those with no history of cancer compared with cancer survivor groups, though the differences were not deemed to be clinically meaningful (mean difference of 0.52 for GMH and 0.88 for GPH).

However, participating in more MVPA was correlated with higher GMH and GPH scores for all 3 groups (P for trend < .001), and differences between the least and most active participants were found to be clinically meaningful (mean differences of ≥4.34 for GMH and ≥6.39 for GPH). Comparably, a lower duration of sitting was associated with higher GMH and GPH scores for all groups (P for trend < .001), with clinically meaningful differences recognized between the least and most sedentary participants (mean differences of ≥2.74 for GMH and ≥3.75 for GPH).

“It is important to note that the results of the current study suggested that the relationship between more MVPA and less sitting time with better GMH and GPH scores among those without a history of cancer is similar to that among short-term and long-term cancer survivors,” the authors wrote.

Importantly though, because the researchers were not able to determine causality, they could not rule out the possibility that cancer-related and age-related quality of life may have influenced physical activity and sitting time survey responses or the possibility of a true bidirectional association between physical activity and sitting time with quality of life. Therefore, future research should include prospective investigations of these associations.

“With a rapidly aging population and nearly 16.9 million cancer survivors currently residing in the United States, there is a clear need to identify strategies associated with improving quality of life for aging cancer survivors,” the authors concluded.

References:

1. Rees-Punia E, Patel AV, Nocera JR, et al. Self-Reported Physical Activity, Sitting Time, and Mental and Physical Health Among Older Cancer Survivors Compared With Adults Without a History of Cancer. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33257

2. Study Shows Active Older Adults Have Better Physical and Mental Health [news release]. American Cancer Society. Published October 20, 2020. Accessed October 20, 2020. http://pressroom.cancer.org/PABetterPMH