(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – An exercise program improves quality of life for cancer patients undergoing active therapy, according to a team of researchers of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “Can exercise interventions enhance health-related quality of life among people with cancer undergoing active treatment?”, which was published online in the Cochrane Reviews on August 15.

According to the investigators, people with cancer undergoing active treatment experience numerous disease- and treatment-related adverse outcomes and poorer health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Therefore, the authors aimed to determine whether regular exercise could improve HRQoL in patients undergoing treatment for cancer. To meet this aim, the investigators scoured several literature databases for randomized controlled trials comparing exercise interventions with non-exercise comparison intervention in adults with cancer undergoing active cancer treatment or scheduled to initiate treatment.

The investigators extracted their results from 56 trials, spanning a wide range of cancer types, with 4,826 cancer patients randomized to either an exercise group (n = 2,286) or a comparison (n = 1,985) group. “Mode of exercise intervention differed across trials and included walking by itself or in combination with cycling, resistance training, or strength training; resistance training; strength training; cycling; yoga; or Qigong,” the investigators wrote.

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Overall, it was observed that, compared to control group, those patients who underwent exercise intervention had higher HRQoL scores. Starting from baseline, exercise-related improvements were observed. Improvements in HRQoL from baseline to 12 weeks’ follow-up were reported (Standard Mean Difference [SMD] 0.33; 95% CI 0.12–0.55). Physical functioning also improved from baseline to 12 weeks’ follow-up (SMD 0.69; 95% CI 0.16–1.22) and at 6 months after initiation (SMD 0.28; 95% CI 0.00–0.55). Social functioning also improved by the end of 12  weeks’ follow-up (SMD 0.54; 95% CI 0.03–1.05) Exercise also decreased fatigue levels during baseline to 12 weeks’ follow-up (SMD -0.38; 95% CI -0.57 to -0.18). In addition, exercise intervention reduced depression and sleep disturbances, generally improved emotional wellbeing and physical functioning.

The investigators concluded that, although exercise appears to produce beneficial effects on measures of quality-of-life in cancer patients undergoing active treatment, further research is required to investigate whether these effects are sustainable.