Physical Exercise During Chemotherapy

Helps Cancer Patients

Dr Rakesh Raman, MBBS, MD (India), Fellowship (NCC, Singapore), Master of Palliative Care (Australia)

22nd September 2017

Dr Rakesh Raman

Exercise make cancer patients to cope better with the side effects of chemotherapy. Exercise as a therapy to complement chemotherapy has a positive effect on muscles, balance and tumor-related fatigue syndrome.

Patients tolerate the therapy better and experience less disease recurrence (relapses) later on. This has already been substantiated by many studies in the past. It has been shown that patients with an advanced gastrointestinal tumor can also profit from exercise therapy.

In accordance with the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, the patients should exercise either three times a week for 50 minutes or five times a week for 30 minutes at a pace which they considered to be “slightly strenuous”. If they are unable to manage this, then they can shorten their training sessions on the basis of a standardized model.

For some patients, it is difficult to carry out the walking or jogging exercise in accordance with the recommendations. A frequent obstacle is the weather: either it is too cold, too hot or too humid. However, the side effects of the chemotherapy, such as loss of sensation, weakness, exhaustion, infections or severe diarrhea, also often mean that they have to reduce or even discontinue their exercises.

There are studies showing the complementary exercise therapy proved valuable with the need for occasional breaks. Muscle mass improve so as did functional properties, such as balance, walking speed and leg strength.

It has been seen that first indications that the toxicity of the chemotherapy can be reduced through moderate activity. This is important because it is especially due to severe toxic effects that patients with gastrointestinal cancer often have to reduce the dose or even discontinue the chemotherapy altogether.

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 should be set up in hospitals or Patients can do indoor exercises. In addition, we should motivate patients to continue with the exercise after they have taken a break because of side effects.