Effects of exercise on physiological and psychological variables in cancer survivors

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Dec;34(12):1863-7. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200212000-00001.


Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to examine the effect of aerobic exercise on physiological and psychological function in patients rehabilitating from cancer treatment. A second purpose was to evaluate the differential effects of low- and moderate-intensity exercise on these variables.

Methods: Eighteen survivors of breast or colon cancer (15 female and 3 male, 40-65 yr of age) served as subjects. The subjects were matched by aerobic capacity and scores on a Quality of Life questionnaire, and then randomly assigned to a control, low- (25-35% heart rate reserve (HRR)), or a moderate- (40-50% HRR) intensity exercise group. The exercise groups performed lower-body aerobic exercise three times a week for 10 wk. After the exercise training, there were no statistically significant differences between the two exercise groups on any of the physiological variables. Therefore, the exercise groups were combined into one group for the final analysis.

Results: The results revealed statistically significant increases in aerobic capacity (P < 0.001) and lower-body flexibility (P = 0.027), a significant decrease in body fat (P < 0.001), and a significant increase in quality of life (P < 0.001) and a measure of energy (P = 0.038) in the exercise group when compared with the control group.

Conclusion: Low- and moderate-intensity aerobic-exercise programs were equally effective in improving physiological and psychological function in this population of cancer survivors. Aerobic exercise appears to be a valuable and well-tolerated component of the cancer-rehabilitation process.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*