Effects of aerobic exercise training on physical performance during myeloablative therapy

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: June 23, 2008

Effects of aerobic exercise training on physical performance during myeloablative therapy

The benefits of exercise for people undergoing cancer therapy have been shown in previous studies. These include improvements in lung and heart function, increased strength and improvements in fatigue levels. The purpose of this study was to evaluate effects of anaerobic exercise training on physical performance of patients with hematologic malignancies or solid tumors during myeloablative therapy or high-dose chemotherapy followed by autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplant.

The questions to be answered by the authors were:

1) Is exercise feasible in this group of patients?

2) What happens to physical performance in these patients if they do exercise?

The study included 85 participants undergoing high dose chemotherapy, who were randomly assigned to a 30 minute a day, 5 days a week exercise regimen or no exercise regimen. Both groups completed daily questionnaires on side effects and quality of life. Exercise was held when platelets or hemoglobin were low, for infection, fever or if the patient was in the ICU.

The primary endpoint was change in physical performance between the beginning and end of treatment, measured in Watts (W). There was a significant increase in physical performance in the exercise group (8.96 +/-24 W) and a decrease in the control group (-7.24 +/- 20 W). The exercise group had improvement in lung function and an increase in their physical functioning score. Patients tended to be fitter and feel better at discharge if they performed exercise.

The exercise regimen during myeloablative therapy appears to be achievable, effective, and safe, and may help to preserve physical function in these patients. Ultimately, this can reduce the risk for limitations and disabilities in patients later in life.