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  • Advanced Cancer Patients Can Benefit From Structured Exercise, Say Researchers

    Incorporating structured exercise into supportive care can help improve the lives of patients with advanced cancer, say researchers in an article e-published ahead of print in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (abstract only available for free). In an analysis of previous studies, authors found that both aerobic exercise and resistance training improved many cancer side effects.

    Authors evaluated 25 studies, for a total of 1,188 participants, that measured the efficacy of exercise interventions on physical function, quality of life, fatigue, body composition, psychosocial function, sleep quality, pain, and survival. All studies used more than 1 session of structured exercise as the primary intervention and specified the "frequency, intensity, time, or type" of exercise. More than 80% of participants in each study had been diagnosed with "advanced cancer that is unlikely to be cured." Some studies used control groups, and some did not.

    Their findings include:

    Physical function. In 83% of studies, participants who exercised experienced significant improvements in physical function, including exercise capacity, aerobic capacity, and muscle strength.

    Quality of life. In 55% of studies, exercise resulted in significant improvement in at least 1 measure of quality of life.

    Fatigue. Half of the studies reported that exercise improved at least 1 measure of fatigue.

    Psychosocial function. At least 1 measure of psychosocial or cognitive function was reported as having improved with exercise in 56% of studies.

    Body composition. In 56% of studies, exercise improved at least 1 measure of body composition, including lean body mass and body fat percentage, though not BMI, fat mass, or body mass.

    Sleep quality. In all 4 studies including this area, participants who exercised reported significant improvements compared with control groups.

    Pain.Of the studies measuring pain, 2 found significant improvements after exercise interventions.

    Survival. No studies examining survival rates found a significant improvement as a result of exercise.

    Because "decline in physical function has been reported as one of the most debilitating symptoms associated with advanced cancer," authors write, "interventions targeting improvements in this domain are of utmost importance."

    While authors note that exercise "appears to be an effective adjunct therapy in the advanced cancer context," they recommend that future studies use standardized protocols to report consistent outcomes measure assessment—one limitation they observed. Authors also suggest that future research should "compare different frequencies, intensities, durations, and types of exercise" to "determine the optimal exercise dose to enhance outcomes for specific cancer diagnoses."

    Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

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