Aerobic exercise as therapy for cancer fatigue

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Fatigue and impairment of physical performance are common and severe problems of cancer patients. We describe the effect of an aerobic exercise program designed for cancer patients suffering from these symptoms.


Five cancer patients (4 female, 1 male, age 18 to 55), participated in the training program. Fatigue had been present for a time ranging between 5 wk and 18 months and hindered the patients from carrying out normal daily activities. The training program consisted of walking daily on a treadmill with an intensity corresponding to a lactate concentration of 3 ± 0.5 mmol·L-1 and was carried out for 6 wk.


By the end of the exercise program we observed an improvement in maximal physical performance (from 6.4 ± 0.4 km·h-1 to 7.5± 0.9 km·h-1, P < 0.05) and maximal walked distance (from 1640 ± 724 m to 3300 ± 953 m, P < 0.05). Heart rate and lactate concentration by an equivalent submaximal workload (5 km·h-1) were significant reduced (from 138 ± 21 beats·min-1 to 113 ± 20 beats·min-1,P < 0.05, and from 2.6 ± 1.4 mmol·L-1 to 1.3± 0.6 mmol·L-1, P < 0.05); all patients experienced a clear reduction of fatigue and could carry out normal daily activities again without substantial limitations.


We conclude that an aerobic exercise program of precisely defined intensity, duration, and frequency can be prescribed as therapy for primary fatigue in cancer patients.

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