Confidence Key for Cancer Survivors

Endometrial cancer survivors tend to exercise more on days they feel more confident

(RxWiki News) If you feel pretty confident you can do something, you’re more likely to do it. That’s pretty simple. It turns out self-confidence may be key when it comes to cancer survivors exercising.

Women who’ve had endometrial (uterine) cancer were more likely to be physically active if they felt the confidence in themselves to exercise regularly, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that on days women reported feeling self-confident, they tended to exercise and be physically active for longer periods of time.

"Move a little more each day."

Karen Basen-Engquist, PhD, professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, led the study to see how self-confidence impacted endometrial survivors’ exercise habits and patterns. 

“Sedentary behavior is associated with increased cancer risk, including endometrial cancer,” Dr. Basen-Engquist said in a news release. “When cancer survivors exercise, it not only improves their physical functioning and psychological well-being, but also reduces their risk of developing other types of cancer or other chronic diseases.”

The researchers looked at a type of self-confidence called "self-efficacy" – a person’s belief in her ability to complete necessary tasks and reach goals.

“I have worked with many people who I have watched transform their health characteristics after learning how to believe in their own progress. As somebody learns to take huge fulfillment out of achieving small victories every single day, they begin a wonderful journey to health,” said Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer of Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh.

For this study, researchers collected information from 100 endometrial cancer survivors. The goal was to see how self-confidence affected how long the women were physically active. The study followed the women for six months.

Study subjects used a handheld computer to indicate every morning how confident they felt in themselves. The same device was used to record how long they had exercised that day.

Additionally, the women completed questionnaires every two months to assess their self-efficacy.

Each woman received a personalized exercise recommendation. These recommendations were based on guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine.

The women in the study also got a pedometer to measure how many steps they walked during a day and printed materials about the positive effects of exercise. Study participants could also take advantage of telephone counseling for help and motivation to exercise more.

Researchers found that having more confidence in the morning meant more exercise during the day. Every one point increase in self-efficacy resulted in six more minutes of physical activity.

“I have found that oftentimes it isn't the major goals that keep people motivated, it is the consistency and the small wins that get somebody excited about getting more and more healthy," Crowell said.

"As somebody changes their perception of success they learn to enjoy the process, and that is where their real changes begin. It doesn't matter if somebody is in poor health or great health, it is their belief and their confidence in themselves and what they are doing that builds their successes," he said.

The authors concluded that this study suggests “real-time interventions that target daily variation in self-efficacy may benefit endometrial cancer survivors' exercise adherence.”

“Our next step will be to determine if we can provide messages to cancer survivors in real time, using methods like email or smart phone applications, to increase their self-efficacy and encourage them to exercise more,” said Dr. Basen-Engquist, who is the director of MD Anderson’s new Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship.  

She added that any amount of additional physical activity helps both cancer patients and survivors.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, this study was published February 13 in Health Psychology. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
March 11, 2013