Background: Fatigue is a common and often severe problem in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The authors postulated that physical activity training can reduce the intensity of fatigue in this group of patients.
Methods: A group of cancer patients receiving high dose chemotherapy followed by autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (training group; n = 27) followed an exercise program during hospitalization. The program was comprised of biking on an ergometer in the supine position following an interval training pattern for 30 minutes daily. Patients in the control group (n = 32) did not train. Psychologic distress was assessed at hospital admission and discharge with the Profile of Mood States and Symptom Check List 90.
Results: By the time of hospital discharge, fatigue and somatic complaints had increased significantly in the control group (P for both < 0.01) but not in the training group. Furthermore, by the time of hospital discharge, the training group had a significant improvement in several scores of psychologic distress (obsessive-compulsive traits, fear, interpersonal sensitivity, and phobic anxiety) (P value for all scores < 0.05); this outcome was not observed in the control group.
Conclusions: The current study found that aerobic exercise can reduce fatigue and improve psychologic distress in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.