Chemotherapy can trigger fatigue, muscle-wasting and reduce physical fitness, affecting patients’ quality of life.
Researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute compared two exercise programmes (30 minutes of home physical activity five days a week with and without two supervised moderate- to high-intensity gym sessions each week) with usual care among 230 women with breast cancer who were receiving chemotherapy. They publish their findings in Journal of Clinical Oncology
The moderate-high intensity programme was most effective at minimising decline in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength, in limiting tiredness and in avoiding chemotherapy dose reduction. The low intensity programme also had significant, positive effects.
The researchers recommend that women are offered a supervised, moderate to high intensity exercise programme during adjuvant chemotherapy, and suggest that home-based, low intensity physical activity is a viable alternative.
 van Waart H, Stuiver MM, van Harten WH et al. Effect of low-intensity physical activity and moderate- to high-intensity physical exercise during adjuvant chemotherapy on physical fitness, fatigue, and chemotherapy completion rates: results of the PACES randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2015. doi:10.1200/JCO.2014.59.1081.