(HealthDay News) — Excessive stress can lead to memory problems among breast cancer survivors, but exercise can help, according to a study published online July 8 in Psycho-Oncology.

For the study, researchers examined self-reported memory and exercise data collected from 1,839 breast cancer survivors, 362 of whom wore accelerometers to track their movement. In both groups, moderate or vigorous physical activity — such as brisk walking, biking, jogging, or engaging in exercise classes — was found to reduce stress and fatigue.

While the study didn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship, greater levels of physical activity were also linked to higher levels of self-confidence and less distress. These improvements were also associated with fewer perceived memory problems, the study authors added.

“We found moderate to vigorous physical activity actually benefits women psychologically and that, in turn, helps their memory,” lead author Siobhan Phillips, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said in a university news release. Post-cancer memory issues are often attributed to chemotherapy or radiation treatments. However, the new study findings suggest “these self-reported memory problems may be in part emotionally related,” Phillips said.

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