Exercise During Chemotherapy

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 4, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I saw a story on the news about something called heat shock protein. They said that stress (including strenuous exercise) the day before chemotherapy could protect cancer cells from chemotherapy. Is there any truth to a danger to exercising the day before chemo treatment?


Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, cancer rehabilitation researcher at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

This study and the publicity around it provides an excellent opportunity of the need to take results in context. First, this study was done in rats. Second, the authors were looking at one biomarker only. I'll almost guarantee that if they had also measured inflammatory markers, cytokines (which make you feel sick), or energy level (not sure how you would do this in rats), then they would be telling us exercise is good for us before chemo. Please do not feel you need to change your exercise habits according to timing of chemo. This study runs counter to results of many, many randomized controlled trials that find it to be safe to do exercise during chemotherapy, with no indication of problems with adverse effects of exercise the day before chemo.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Life After Breast Cancer Webchat. View the entire transcript here.