The benefits of exercise for cancer patients

Strength-training programs and cardiovascular workouts may lessen fatigue, improve muscle function and quality of life for current or former cancer patients, studies show.

* Men with prostate cancer appear to have less fatigue after participating in a resistance training program. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2003, 155 men who were scheduled to receive androgen deprivation therapy for at least three months were assigned to a thrice-weekly, 12-week exercise program or a control group. Those in the exercise group suffered less fatigue during daily activities and had a higher quality of life than the men in the control group. The exercise group also showed higher levels of upper- and lower-body fitness than the control group.

* A regular weight-training program can improve quality of life among breast cancer survivors. In a study published in the journal Cancer in 2006, 86 breast cancer survivors were put into a weight-training program or a control group; at the end of the program, those women with increased upper body strength and lean mass were generally found to have higher quality-of-life scores.

* Aerobic training can boost physical performance in cancer patients who have just finished a high-dose chemotherapy program. In a study published in the journal Cancer in 1997, 16 patients completed a seven-week treadmill rehab program and 16 served as a control group. By the end of the study, the exercise group showed improvements in maximum physical performance and hemoglobin concentration. Also, none of them reported fatigue or limitations in their daily activities due to low physical performance; one quarter of the patients in the control group did.

* Head and neck cancer survivors can reduce pain and disability with a progressive, resistance-exercise training program. A 2008 study in the journal Cancer found that 27 cancer survivors assigned to a resistance program for 12 weeks showed significant improvement in shoulder pain and disability, compared with 25 people assigned to a standardized therapeutic exercise protocol. The resistance training group also had improved upper extremity muscle strength and endurance compared with the other group.

[Image source: Wikimedia Commons]

Original article was written on 29 January 2014