Yoga improved quality of life and physiological changes following radiotherapy compared to simple stretching exercises or nothing, a study found.
Patients with stages 0 to III breast cancer were randomly assigned, 53 to yoga or 56 to stretching, for up to 3 60-minute sessions each week for 6 weeks during radiotherapy. Another 54 patients were assigned to a waitlist. Yoga included preparatory warm-up synchronized with breathing, selected postures, deep relaxation, alternate-nostril breathing, and meditation. Stretching included exercises recommended specifically for women undergoing or recovering from breast cancer treatment: standing, lying down, and sitting positions that approximated the gross movements of the yoga exercises.
Patients self-reported measures of quality of life; levels of fatigue, depression and sleep quality; and offered 5 saliva samples per day for 3 consecutive days at baseline, end of treatment, and 1, 3, and 6 months later to assess diurnal cortisol rhythm.
Results appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The yoga group had significantly greater increases in physical function compared with the waitlist group at 1 and 3 months after radiotherapy. At 1, 3, and 6 months, the yoga group had greater increases in physical functioning compared with both stretching and waitlist groups. By the end of radiotherapy, compared to the waitlisted patients, the yoga and stretching groups also had less fatigue.
There were no group differences for mental health and sleep quality, and the cortisol slope was steepest for the yoga group compared with the stretching and waitlist groups at 1 month after radiotherapy.
Authors wrote, “Although physical therapy is a reimbursable expense in the United States and will likely help patients recover faster, expanding to include services such as (yoga) should be considered.”