Exercise helps memory....

Monday 14 May 2018

I came across some interesting findings about exercise and cancer treatment this week:

An American study, from Northwestern University, of women following treatment for breast cancer found that women who undertook moderate to vigorous physical activity reported their memory to be improved .

There have been reports for sometime about ‘chemobrain’ following treatment and although not confirmed it was thought that chemotherapy was the culprit affecting both memory and concentration post treatment.

The surprise finding of the above study is that they found that the memory problems the women reported appeared to be related to the ‘high stress load cancer survivors experience’’ rather than  as a direct result of the treatment they had had (chemotherapy or radiotherapy) .

Those of you who have taken part in our Living with less stress course will remember that there is a direct link between stress, the chemicals our bodies produce as a result and the effect on our ability to think clearly, process information and remember things.

The debate about the cause of chemobrain continues, however the above study adds to the growing evidence from across all types of cancer that exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety, improve fatigue and now also help address memory issues.

So what counts as exercise?

Many of you may be thinking it means the gym or running but the answer is much broader and exercise can be whatever you can manage and also enjoy. If you enjoy it you are more likely to continue it regularly and gain more benefit. Your exercise may be walking to the local shop or to the other side of the room, doing the housework, some gardening, or some gentle stretching in your chair.

It is important not to overdo it. You can talk with your Dr/specialist nurse about any specific exercise you could benefit from or should perhaps avoid, but in general, exercise shouldn’t hurt or leave you breathless.

Whilst it varies between centres, all of our Maggie's Centres offer selection of physical exercise including Nordic walking ,gym sessions , yoga, tai-chi, armchair exercise, gardening , walking to name but a few. Our classes are free, run by qualified instructors and we can help you to work out which is the right activity for you.

Online we don’t currently offer exercise sessions however you are of course always welcome to contact us if you would like to talk about your individual situation.  You may also like post a comment and let us and other members know more about your experiences of exercise during or after cancer treatment.

Best wishes


Blog originally written by Robyn July 2016, links updated Feb 2020

if you would like to read more about the study mentioned above you can find it on the Northwestern university website  Exercise improves memory in breast cancer survivors

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay up to date with our news and fundraising by signing up for our newsletter.

Sign up