Exercise Energizes Cancer Patients

Aerobic activity brings more energy to cancer patients during and after treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The cancer fight is tiring, both for the mind and the body. Despite the fatigue, patients with cancer can feel less tired with exercise.

Light physical activity that works the heart, such as walking or cycling, can help lower the fatigue that comes with treatments and cancer itself, new research has found.

"Be active for 30 minutes each day."

Previous research has shown that being tired is common among cancer patients and is often a side effect of treatment.

Some patients had been advised to rest although being inactive for long periods of time can cause more tiredness and make muscles weak.

The aim of the review, led by Fiona Cramp, MD, of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of the West of England in the UK, looked at how exercise affects patients' fatigue during and after being treated for cancer.

Researchers added 28 studies to their original review, first published in 2008, which now includes more than 4,000 patients with cancer.

More than half the studies involved people with breast cancer or women. Patients' were between 39 and 70 years old on average.

Researchers only included studies that involved randomized testing and looked at various outcomes, including fatigue as reported by the patient, anxiety, depression and how confident the patients felt in their ability to exercise.

The studies also tracked the time spent exercising and how long patients could keep it up, as well as their quality of life.

Unsupervised and home-based exercise were included in 19 of the studies while the rest included supervised programs.

They found that walking, cycling and other aerobic exercise help people who have solid tumors both during and after treatment.

Resistance training and other forms of exercise also lowered fatigue.

"The evidence suggests that exercise may help reduce cancer-related fatigue and should therefore be considered as one component of a strategy for managing fatigue that may include a range of other interventions and education," Dr. Cramp said.

"This updated review provides a more precise conclusion, showing specifically that aerobic exercise, both during and after cancer treatment, can be beneficial."

More research is needed to see how the intensity, timing and kind of exercise affects cancer patients, the researchers said in their report.

The authors note that some of the included studies were small and had fewer than 40 participants. Plus, other programs and interventions could have accompanied the exercise, which may affect fatigue levels.

The Health Technology Assessment program from the National Institute for Health Research and University of the West of England supported the study, which was published in issue 11 of The Cochrane Library. The authors don't declare any conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 15, 2012
Last Updated:
May 8, 2013