Background: Advice to rest and take things easy if patients become fatigued during radiotherapy may be detrimental. Aerobic walking improves physical functioning and has been an intervention for chemotherapy-related fatigue. A prospective, randomized, controlled trial was performed to determine whether aerobic exercise would reduce the incidence of fatigue and prevent deterioration in physical functioning during radiotherapy for localized prostate carcinoma.
Methods: Sixty-six men were randomized before they received radical radiotherapy for localized prostate carcinoma, with 33 men randomized to an exercise group and 33 men randomized to a control group. Outcome measures were fatigue and distance walked in a modified shuttle test before and after radiotherapy.
Results: There were no significant between group differences noted with regard to fatigue scores at baseline (P = 0.55) or after 4 weeks of radiotherapy (P = 0.18). Men in the control group had significant increases in fatigue scores from baseline to the end of radiotherapy (P = 0.013), with no significant increases observed in the exercise group (P = 0.203). A nonsignificant reduction (2.4%) in shuttle test distance at the end of radiotherapy was observed in the control group; however, in the exercise group, there was a significant increase (13.2%) in distance walked (P = 0.0003).
Conclusions: Men who followed advice to rest and take things easy if they became fatigued demonstrated a slight deterioration in physical functioning and a significant increase in fatigue at the end of radiotherapy. Home-based, moderate-intensity walking produced a significant improvement in physical functioning with no significant increase in fatigue. Improved physical functioning may be necessary to combat radiation fatigue.