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Effects of Nia Exercise in Women Receiving Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Debra Reis
M. Eileen Walsh
Stacey Young-McCaughan
Tisha Jones
ONF 2013, 40(5), E374-E381 DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.E374-E381

Purpose/Objectives: To compare a 12-week nontraditional exercise Nia program practiced at home to usual care on fatigue, quality of life (QOL), aerobic capacity, and shoulder flexibility in women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy.

Design: Randomized clinical trial.

Setting: Large community-based hospital in the midwestern United States.

Sample: 41 women with stage I, II, or III breast cancer starting radiation therapy.

Methods: 22 women were randomized to the Nia group and 19 to the usual care group. Those in the Nia group were instructed to practice Nia 20-60 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks. Those in the usual care group were instructed to continue normal activities.

Main Research Variables: Fatigue, QOL, aerobic capacity, and shoulder flexibility.

Findings: Controlling for baseline scores, change over time between groups was significantly different for the women who practiced Nia at least 13 times during the 12-week period; those in the Nia intervention reported significantly less fatigue between weeks 6 and 12, as compared to control group (p = 0.05). No statistical differences in QOL, aerobic capacity, or shoulder flexibility were found, but trends favoring Nia were identified.

Conclusions: For women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer, Nia can help relieve fatigue. Additional research in arm and shoulder mobility and preservation also may be beneficial.

Implications for Nursing: Oncology nurses are in a unique position to offer suggestions to help manage fatigue, and Nia could be considered as part of a cancer survivorship program.

Knowledge Translation: Exercise is beneficial for women with breast cancer, and interest is growing in nontraditional exercise options. Nia can benefit women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy.

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