Patients with advanced cancer who walk for 30 minutes 3 times a week experience improved quality of life, a pilot study involving patients with advanced breast, prostate, gynecologic, or hematologic cancers has shown.1

The researchers examined the impact of walking on quality of life and symptom severity in patients with relapsed or metastatic disease. Patients typically decrease their exercise levels during cancer treatment, and these levels remain low afterward in spite of mounting evidence indicating the significant health benefits of physical activity. General benefits of walking include improved cardiovascular health and increased energy levels.

In addition, approaches that promote exercise are usually supervised, requiring travel to specialist facilities. This places greater burden on patients with cancer.

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In total, 42 patients with advanced cancer were randomized equally between a walking intervention and standard care. The randomization was well matched for age, sex, and activity.

The walking group attended a brief, motivational interview, received the advice to walk for at least 30 minutes on alternate days, and attended a volunteer-led weekly walking group.

Participants in the standard care group were encouraged to continue their current levels of physical activity.

Study results indicated participants in the walking group experienced improved physical, psychological, and emotional well-being after completing the program. Many of these participants reported walking improved their attitudes about cancer. They also held favorable perspectives on the social benefits of participation in a walking group.

“The importance of exercise in preventing cancer recurrence and managing other chronic illnesses is becoming clear. Findings from this important study show that exercise is valued by, suitable for, and beneficial to people with advanced cancer,” explained Emma Ream, PhD, RN, professor of supportive cancer care and director of research in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Surrey, Guildford, England.

Notably, a 45% attrition rate was seen by the end of the 24-week study, suggesting that patient commitment to physical activity during cancer care is a major challenge despite its health benefits.


1. Tsianakas V, Harris J, Ream E, et al. CanWalk: a feasibility study with embedded randomised controlled trial pilot of a walking intervention for people with recurrent or metastatic cancer. BMJ Open. 2017 Feb 15;7(2):e013719. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013719