Exercise battles fatigue during and after cancer treatment

Exercise may help stave off treatment-related fatigue in cancer patients, study shows.

cancer_exercise_brief_sExercising during treatment reduces cancer-related fatigue 33.3 percent, and exercising after treatment reduces it 21.8 percent, according to research from the UAB School of Public Health published in the August 2012 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Previous studies reported that 50 to 90 percent of cancer patients undergoing treatment experience cancer-related fatigue. Matthew Herring, Ph.D., study co-author and research associate in the UAB Department of Epidemiology, and his co-author examined ways this fatigue could be affected by exercise — before, during and after cancer treatment — to better develop and implement exercise interventions.

“Patients with lower baseline levels of fatigue who had better adherence to the exercise interventions had larger improvements in fatigue symptoms during treatment,” Herring explains. “Also, larger improvements were found for patients who waited longer to begin an exercise intervention after completing treatment and for exercise programs with a shorter duration."

Herring says the findings suggest more research is needed to investigate the effects of exercise from diagnosis through treatment and recovery, but these preliminary findings still are beneficial to the average cancer patient.

“These findings strengthen the argument that exercise can attenuate cancer-related fatigue,” Herring says. “Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercise may well be able to stave off treatment-related increases in fatigue and can improve feelings of fatigue during recovery.”

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