Exercise Reduces Chemotherapy-related Fatigue

Exercise reduces fatigue and improves strength, physical functioning, and emotional well-being in men and women undergoing chemotherapy, according to the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal.[1]

While exercise has long been associated with the prevention of cancer and other diseases, new studies are focusing on the role of exercise in improving well-being in patients undergoing cancer treatment. A randomized, controlled trial in Denmark involved 269 cancer patients (73 men, 196 women) ranging in age from 20-65 years. (Patients with bone or brain metastases were excluded.)

The patients were randomized to receive conventional care only or conventional care plus a supervised exercise program that included high-intensity cardiovascular and resistance training, relaxation and body awareness training, and massage for a total of nine hours per week for six weeks.

Using several different measures, including questionnaires, strength testing, and aerobic testing, the researchers assessed the patients’ fatigue levels as well as vitality, physical functioning, emotional well-being, and a number of other factors.

The results indicated that patients in the exercise group experienced a significant reduction in fatigue. In addition, they had improved vitality, aerobic capacity, muscular strength, emotional wellbeing, and physical and functional activity. However, there was not a significant effect on quality of life.

The researchers concluded that a varied exercise program that includes high- and low-intensity components was safe and feasible for patients undergoing chemotherapy and could reduce fatigue.


[1] Adamsen L, Quist M, Andersen C, et al. Effect of a multimodal high intensity exercise intervention in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: Randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 2009; 339: b3410.