Exercise was associated with improved coping in patients on chemotherapy for advanced gastrointestinal cancer, according to a study by doctorate candidate Katrin Stücher and colleagues at the Department of Sports Medicine at Goethe University Frankfurt and the Gastrointestinal Centre of Agaplesion Markus Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany.1

“For some patients, it was difficult to carry out the walking or jogging program in accordance with the recommendations. A frequent obstacle was the weather: either it was too cold, too hot, or too wet. But the side effects of the chemotherapy, such as loss of sensation, weakness, exhaustion, infections, or severe diarrhea, also often meant that they had to reduce or even discontinue the programme,” explains Katrin Stücher in a news release.

According to a media statement by Goethe University, previous research indicates exercise may have positive benefits on muscles, balance, and cancer related fatigue in patients receiving chemotherapy.

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Participants were advised to exercise at a “slightly strenuous” pace either 3 times weekly for 50 minutes or 5 times weekly for 30 minutes, according to recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine. A standardized model was available for modifications in the program if participants were not able to tolerate proposed level of exertion.

The investigators report improvements in leg strength, muscle mass, balance, and walking speed. Further, initial results indicate possible mitigation of chemotherapy side-effects with moderate physical activity in these patients. In practice, severe side effects of chemotherapy for gastrointestinal cancers might lead to discontinuation or reduction of the chemotherapy in some cases.

Co-investigator Professor Winfried Banzer continued in the statement, “We believe that it will make sense in future to offer patients opportunities for physical exercise during chemotherapy. To eliminate adversities through the weather, exercise rooms could be set up in hospitals. In addition, we should motivate patients to continue with the program after they have taken a break because of side effects.”1


1. Gastrointestinal cancer: physical exercise helps during chemo. First tumor-specific study among patients with advanced-stage cancer. Frankfurt, Germany: Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main; March 10, 2017. http://www.goethe-university-frankfurt.de/65718841/006. Accessed March 20, 2017.