November 1, 2022 – Exercising while undergoing chemotherapy can help cancer patients overcome the debilitating effects of treatment and return to a normal life faster.
This is according to the file study of 266 patients undergoing chemotherapy for testicular, breast, colon, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. All participants participated in a 6-month training program, but half started the program during chemotherapy (3 months before the scheduled end of chemotherapy), and the other half started after the chemotherapy ended.
Previous research has shown that exercise benefits cancer patients, but this is the first to investigate how the timing of exercise affects the effects of treatment.
Those who trained during chemotherapy experienced a slight decrease in peak oxygen uptake, or peak VO2 — an indicator of general fitness — after completing chemotherapy. At that point, the VO2 peak fell by about half from that of the other group.
They also experienced a slight decrease in strength, quality of life, and physical function. They reported less stress.
“Although patients are fatigued by treatment, physical exercise can lead to changes in muscle strength and increased physical condition,” says study author Annemiek Walenkamp, MD, PhD, and oncologist at University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.
Walcamp explains that exercise produces cellular changes in the body, which stimulate the production of mitochondria in muscle cells.
“Getting more [mitochondria] Increases the body’s energy supply. Also, exercise increases oxygen circulation. This allows you to use energy more efficiently.”
If the exercise cannot be performed safely during chemotherapy, a program afterward can still help. In fact, all study participants were able to restore their fitness to baseline one year after completing the exercise regimen, regardless of when they started.
Keeping the lung and heart fit is important for cancer patients, as it may improve the chances of survival. separate study It found that for every 1 extra equivalent in peak metabolic energy (the amount of energy they expend sitting) that cancer patients achieved during an exercise test, their risk of dying from cancer was reduced by 25%.
What type of exercise should patients do? In the Dutch study, participants did 30 minutes of cardio (stationary bike, treadmill) 3 days a week, 20 to 30 minutes of weight training twice a week, and a recreational sport such as indoor hockey, soccer, or badminton once. one a week. They worked with a physical therapist for the first three months and were asked to follow the routine on their own for the past three months.
Walcamp says more research is needed to determine which exercise is safest for different types of cancer. People with lung or bone cancer, for example, may need to be extra careful and make sure to work with a physical therapist who specializes in helping people with cancer.
“When safety is assured, I suspect all patients would benefit from such a program,” Walcamp says.