A University of New Mexico researcher recently received a grant from the National Cancer Institute to help improve the lives of cancer survivors across New Mexico.

The grant, which will last for five years, will total $772,000. Cindy Blair, assistant professor at UNM’s School of Medicine, said she hopes this grant will help older cancer survivors live an active lifestyle by decreasing the amount of time they spend sitting for long periods of time. She said this will be done remotely, which will reduce a survivor’s need to travel.

“The study participants will use a Fitbit and the Fitbit app or website to promote disruption of prolonged sitting periods by getting up and moving around,” she said. “A health coach will work with them to provide encouragement and support to reduce their sedentary time and increase the number of steps per day.”

Blair said traditional exercise programs used for cancer survivors include moderate to vigorous aerobic and strength training activities. These types of exercises are useful for people who are healthy or motivated to to start an exercise program. However, she said different exercises are needed for older survivors.

“Many cancer survivors are older and have existing comorbidities, including impaired physical functioning,” she said. “If an older cancer survivor did not exercise a lot before the cancer diagnosis, or has reduced fitness due to the cancer and its treatment, it might be a better approach to start slower and work up to a regular exercise program.”

Blair said the main takeaway from this program is that every step counts.

“In this program, every step counts, no matter how fast the person is moving or how long the person is moving around,” she said.

Mikhaela Smith is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @MikhaelaSmith18.