Purpose: To evaluate the physiologic and psychological effects of an equine-assisted therapy protocol (EAT) in breast cancer survivors.
Methods: Twenty women (mean age, 45.61±2.71 years) whose breast cancer treatment had concluded at least 6 months previously underwent a screening protocol to certify their eligibility to participate in noncompetitive sports. The patients were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n=10) or a control group (n=10). Intervention patients participated in a 16-week EAT protocol consisting of 2 hours of activity per week. All patients were tested before and after the intervention for maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), fat mass percentage, total body water percentage, strength of principal muscular groups (measured on five weight-lifting machines [leg press, leg extension, leg curl, shoulder press, vertical traction]), and quality of life using the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue questionnaire (FACIT-F).
Results: After intervention, the intervention group showed an improvement in VO2max (28.29%; p<.001), a decrease in fat mass percentage (change, -7.73%; p<0.002), an increase in total body water percentage (6.90%; p=0.027), and an increase in strength (leg press, 17.75% [p=0.018]; leg extension, 21.55% [p=0.005]; leg curl, 26.04% [p<0.001]; shoulder press, 49.72% [p=0.003]; vertical traction, 19.27% [p=0.002]). Furthermore, the increase in the three FACIT-F scores (FACIT-F trial outcome: 9.29% [p=0.010]; Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General total score, 14.80% [p=0.022]; FACIT-F total score, 11.48% [p=0.004]) showed an increase in quality of life. No significant changes for any variable were found for the control group.
Conclusions: EAT had positive effects on both physiologic and psychological measures, enhancing quality of life of breast cancer survivors. RESULTS suggest a new method for rehabilitation intervention strategies after cancer in a nonmedical environment.