Impact of the initial fitness level on the effects of a structured exercise therapy during pediatric stem cell transplantation

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Abstract

Background

Before and after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), most patients suffer from psychophysical limitations due to the treatment. Exercise interventions demonstrate beneficial effects on, for example, strength, endurance, or health-related quality of life during and after HSCT, but with a great variation among patients concerning the response to exercise. This study examines the influence of the initial fitness on the effects of an exercise therapy in pediatric HSCT.

Procedure

Fifty-three children and adolescents (10.9 ± 3.5 years) scheduled for HSCT were randomized into an exercise intervention group (IG) or a control group (CG). During hospitalization, the IG performed endurance, strength, and flexibility training three times per week. The CG included a nonexercise program. A 6-min walk test was completed before and after the inpatient period. Baseline results (6-min walking distance [6MWD]) were used to split both groups into the following: IGUNFIT, n = 14; IGFIT, n = 12; CGUNFIT, n = 16; CGFIT, n = 11. Differences in outcome changes between groups were analyzed with H-test.

Result

Intergroup comparison revealed significant differences between IGUNFIT and CGUNFIT (P < 0.05). The IGUNFIT increased their 6MWD by +8% (vs. IGFIT, +1%); both CGs presented a decline in 6MWD (CGUNFIT, –14%; CGFIT, –16%). At discharge, the IGFIT achieved 85.5 ± 10.3% of healthy reference values.

Conclusions

The current results indicate that exercise during pediatric HSCT is feasible and contributes to prevention of treatment-related loss of physical function. As seen in healthy persons, patients’ benefits might depend on their initial fitness level. As a diminished physical capability may result in higher training effects, impaired especially patients should engage in exercise.

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