Exercise improves life after cancer treatment

Physical activity was associated with important positive effects on physical functions and quality of life in persons who had completed their treatment for cancer, a meta-analysis has revealed.

Daniel Y.T. Fong of the School of Nursing, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, China, and colleagues analyzed data from 34 randomized controlled trials that assessed the effects of physical activity in adults who had completed their main cancer treatment, with the exception of hormonal treatment. Each study included an average of 93 patients (mean age 55 years) who suffered from breast, prostate, gynecologic, colorectal, gastric, or lung cancer.

Duration of physical activity in these studies ranged from 3 to 60 weeks (median duration 13 weeks). The trials included aerobic exercise, resistance training, and strength training. In most cases, members of the control groups were considered sedentary or were assigned to no exercise.

The majority of studies (22, or 65%) focused on breast cancer. In their BMJ.com report (www.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/563527/field_highwire_article_pdf/0.pdf), the investigators noted that these trials linked physical activity with improvements in insulin-like growth factor-1, bench press, leg press, fatigue, depression, and quality of life, compared with control groups. When studies involving cancers other than breast cancer were added in, significant improvements were seen in body mass index, body weight, peak oxygen consumption, peak power output, distance walked in 6 minutes, right hand grip strength, and quality of life.

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