Summaries of exercise studies
In a landmark 1998 study by Dimeo et al., cancer
patients getting high dose chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants (a highly
toxic regimen that involves weeks-long hospital stays) underwent aerobic
training experienced a 25 percent reduction in diarrhea (a common side effect of
radiation), a 28 percent reduction in pain, a 15 percent reduction in low
white-blood-cell counts, a 12 percent reduction in hospital stays, as well as
significantly less fatigue and emotional distress than their sedentary
Effects of aerobic exercise on the physical performance and incidence of
treatment-related complications after high-dose chemotherapy. Blood.
Summaries of some other recent exercise
studies and links to PubMed abstracts:
- Patients getting chemotherapy received brochures about exercise. They
were later surveyed about their levels of fatigue and whether they exercised
during chemo. Patients who did not exercise were more fatigued than those
- Breast cancer patients recovering from surgery, chemotherapy and/or
radiation were guided in individualized exercise routines. Their recovery
was surveyed after the exercise program. All the patients improved in
various aspects of heart/lung function, mood or fatigue, especially those
who had received a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
- Chemotherapy patients in a randomized trial who exercised at least 20
minutes, three times per week (a very moderate amount of exercise), were
found to have less chemo-induced nausea than those who did less than this
amount of exercise.
- A systematic review of studies of methods to reduce fatigue in cancer
patients found that exercise was more effective in reducing fatigue than the
other interventions studied, including education, sleep promotion or
- Breast cancer patients getting chemotherapy were randomly assigned to
resistance exercise training, aerobic exercise training or no exercise
training. Aerobic exercise significantly improved percent body fat, aerobic
fitness and self-esteem; resistance exercise significantly improved muscle
strength, lean body mass, chemotherapy completion rate and self-esteem.
Quality of life, fatigue, anxiety and depression were also improved by
exercise but not significantly. Exercise did not cause lymphedema or other
adverse side effects.
- Women beginning chemotherapy for breast cancer were assigned to aerobic
exercise, resistance exercise or no exercise training. Aerobic exercise
prevented the decline in bone density usually seen during cancer
chemotherapy. This could contribute to preventing in osteoporosis in these
patients. Exercise also improved aerobic capacity and muscle strength at a
time when a decrease in fitness is usually observed.