Physical activity (PA) is positively associated with numerous health benefits among cancer survivors. This study examined insufficiently investigated relationships among PA, health-related quality of life (HRQOL), and bowel function (BF) in rectal cancer survivors.
RC survivors (n = 1063) ≥5 years from diagnosis in two Kaiser permanente regions were mailed a multidimensional survey to assess HRQOL and BF. PA was assessed by a modified Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire. PA minutes were categorized into weighted categories based on guidelines: (1) not active (zero PA minutes); (2) insufficiently active (1–149 PA minutes); (3) meeting guidelines (150–299 PA minutes); and (4) above guidelines (≥300 PA minutes). Relationships of PA with HRQOL and BF were evaluated using multiple linear regression, stratified by sex and ostomy status for BF. Types of PA identified as helpful for BF and symptoms addressed were summarized.
Response rate was 60.5%. Of 557 participants, 40% met or exceeded PA guidelines, 34% were not active, and 26% were insufficiently active. Aerobic activities, specifically walking and cycling, were most commonly reported to help BF. Higher PA was associated with better psychological wellbeing and multiple SF12 scales, worse BF scores in men with ostomies, and better BF scores in women.
Meeting or exceeding PA guidelines was associated with higher HRQOL. Although the BF findings are exploratory, they suggest women may benefit from increased PA, whereas men with ostomies may face challenges that require more study. Identifying PA strategies that will lead to improved patient compliance and benefit are needed.