Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Lack of physical activity is common among cancer survivors, and it increases their risk for death from a recurrence of the disease or other causes, a study published Thursday by JAMA Oncology found.
Nearly 60% of the cancer survivors included in the study reported that they engaged in no leisure-time physical activity, the data showed.
An additional 16% said they participated in physical activity, but for fewer than the 150 minutes per week recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers said.
In addition, 35% of the cancer survivors in the study indicated they spent an average of six to eight hours sitting each day, while 25% sat for eight or more hours daily, according to the researchers.
Sitting more than eight hours a day increased the risk for death among cancer survivors by just over 80% and doubled their risk for death from a recurrence of the disease, the data showed.
"The combination of prolonged sitting with lack of physical activity was highly prevalent among U.S. cancer survivors, and this activity pattern was associated with worsened survival," study co-author Lin Yang told UPI in an email.
"Regular exercise can promote survivors' physical and mental health and improve their quality of life," said Yang, a research scientist with Cancer Care Alberta in Canada.
Some 17 million cancer survivors live in the United States, based on estimates published earlier this month.
Earlier research has found that failure to maintain a healthy weight and lack of exercise can increase a cancer survivor's risk for disease recurrence.
To maintain physical health, the CDC recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of exercise or physical activity -- outside of work -- per week.
For this study, Yang and her colleagues from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis assessed physical activity and average weekly time spent sitting among 1,535 cancer survivors in the United States for up to nine years.
Participants were asked to report their weekly leisure-time, or non-work-related, physical activity, and average time spent sitting, or sedentary, the researchers said.
The researchers then determined whether these numbers had an effect on participants' health and their risk for cancer recurrence or death, they said.
Over the nine-year study period, 293 of the study participants died, 114 of them from cancer, according to the researchers.
Just under 57% of the study participants reported that they engaged in no leisure-time physical activity, while only 28% indicated that they met or exceeded the CDC's 150 minute per week threshold, the data showed.
Of those who reported zero leisure-time physical activity, 24% died during the study period, compared with 8% of those who exercised more than 150 minutes per week, the researchers said.
Similarly, 22% of those who indicated that they sat for eight hours or more each day died, compared with 15% of those who sat for four hours or less, according to the researchers.
Of those who reported zero leisure-time physical activity, 9% died from cancer during the study period, compared with 3% of those who exercised more than 150 minutes per week, the researchers said.
"These data mean that we need to be creative to develop interventions that support cancer survivors to sit less and move more," Yang said.