Physical exercise and measures of fitness, such as endurance and strength, significantly decrease after a diagnosis of lung cancer, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Data from previous studies show that physical exercise improves fatigue, physical capacity, and quality of life for patients with cancer, but physical fitness and exercise behaviors have not been thoroughly assessed in patients with advanced lung cancer.

For this study, researchers enrolled 227 patients with advanced lung cancer shortly after diagnosis and tested for strength and endurance with the maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) and 6 minute walk test (6MWT), respectively. Baseline measures were taken upon study enrollment and randomization, and patients completed self-report questionnaires that evaluated current and previous exercise behaviors. Two hundred and eleven patients were evaluable for the final analysis.

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Results showed that exercise behaviors were superior in the year prior to diagnosis compared with at the time of study initiation; nearly 43% of patients participated in regular exercise in the year prior to diagnosis compared with just 20.3% shortly after. There was at least a 50% decrease in frequency, intensity, and duration of sports or exercise upon diagnosis.

Compared with age and sex-matched reference data, there was a significant decrease in endurance capacity and strength in both men and women patients (P <.01).

Previous exercise and walking behaviors were significantly associated with physical fitness after diagnosis.

The authors concluded that these “findings indicate the need for supporting patients with advanced lung cancer to remain physically active after receiving a cancer diagnosis and beginning palliative treatment.”


Titz C, Hummler S, Schmidt ME, Thomas M, Steins M, Wiskemann J. Exercise behavior and physical fitness in patients with advanced lung cancer [published online February 26, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4105-5