Home-based Diet and Exercise Interventions Improve Functional Outcomes Among Older, Overweight Long-term Cancer Survivors

Weights and fresh fruitResearchers at Duke University in North Carolina published results of a two year study of 641 overweight long-term survivors of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer to determine if tailored telephone counseling and mailed out printed material promoting exercise, healthy diet, and modest weight loss would have a positive effect on the functional outcome of those survivors. The group was split into an intervention group or 319 participants who received the home-based program and a control group of 322 who received the material only after the intervention period of 12 months. The participants ranged in age from 65 to 91 and were recruited from Canada, U.K. and the U.S.

Outcomes were determined from a number of scales including a self-reported Physical Function questionnaire and the Late Life Function and Disability Index (measuring changes in lower body functionality) both of which are scored from 0 to 100. Higher scores on these two scales indicated better functionality. As well, measures of physical activity, body mass index, and overall health-related quality of life were taken.

The results of the study showed a slower decline in functionality over the 12 months in the intervention group by more than half (-2.15 compared to -4.84). Although there was only a slight improvement in lower extremity function in the intervention group as a whole (+0.34), there was a marked level of decline in functionality in the control group (-1.89). Physical activity, dietary behaviours, and overall quality of life increased significantly in the intervention group compared with the control group. There was also a marked difference in weight loss on average between the two groups (loss of 2.06 kg in the intervention group vs. 0.92 kg in the control group).

This study has shown a reduced rate of decline and improvement in other health markers in a group who received individualized counseling and targeted printed material. Considering that cancer survivors are at a greater risk for subsequent malignancies, other related illnesses, and a higher rate of functional decline than the general population, the results of this study could indeed have a positive impact on this trend.

To your health,



Morey, M.C., Snyder, D.C., Sloane, R.S., et al. (2009). Effects of Home-Based Diet and Exercise on Functional Outcomes Among Older, Overweight Long-term Cancer Survivors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 301 (18), 1883-1891.