A progressive resistance-training intervention had a small-to-medium effect on fitness, quality of life, and nutrition status in patients receiving treatment for head and neck cancer, a study published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer has shown.1

Because patients with head and neck cancer experience weight and muscle mass loss, decreased functioning, malnutrition, depression, and quality of life declines during and after treatment, researchers sought to determine the optimal timing for the initiation of a lifestyle and progressive resistance exercise training intervention.

For the study, researchers enrolled 60 patients with head and neck cancer and randomly assigned them to participate in a 12-week lifestyle intervention and progressive resistance-training program either during radiotherapy or immediately following the completion of radiation treatment, or standard care.

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Results showed that the intervention performed during treatment did not significantly impact lean body mass, body mass index, or body fat. It did, however, result in a significant improvement in weekly physical activity and a small-to-medium effect on fitness, quality of life, and nutrition status without respect to timing.

The study also demonstrated that any effect on body composition, fitness, quality of life, depression, and nutritional scores occurred regardless of whether patients received the immediate or delayed resistance-training program.

“Although the intervention during treatment did not reduce the loss of lean body mass, delaying the exercise program until after treatment completion was associated with improved intervention adherence, a finding with important clinical implications,” the authors conclude.


1. Capozz LC, McNeely ML, Lau HY, et al. Patient-reported outcomes, body composition, and nutrition status in patients with head and neck cancer: Results from an exploratory randomized controlled exercise trial [published online ahead of print February 1, 2016]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.29863.