The effects of an exercise program in leukemia patients

Integr Cancer Ther. 2009 Jun;8(2):130-8. doi: 10.1177/1534735409334266.


Purpose: To examine the feasibility of administering an in-hospital exercise program to acute leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy. A secondary purpose explored the impact of exercise on selected physiological, psychological, and inflammatory markers.

Methods: Ten patients, aged 18 to 50 years, diagnosed with acute leukemia or newly relapsed were assessed for body weight, height, body composition (skinfolds), cardiorespiratory endurance (total minutes on bicycle ergometer at 60% heart rate reserve), dynamic muscular endurance (Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute protocol), fatigue (Revised Piper Fatigue Scale), depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale, National Institute of Mental Health questionnaire), and quality of life (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General) at baseline (within 3 days of diagnosis) and at the end of induction phase of treatment. Blood draws were taken at baseline, midpoint, and at the end of induction for analyses of inflammatory markers (Linco Luminex assay). Combined aerobic and strength training exercises were administered 3 times per week, twice daily, for 30 minutes. Paired-samples t-tests were used for the analyses of physiological and psychological parameters. One-way repeated measures analysis of variance was used for the analyses of inflammatory markers.

Results: Significant improvements in cardiorespiratory endurance (P = .009, baseline 8.9 +/- 8.8 minutes, postexercise intervention 17 +/- 14.3 minutes) with significant reductions in total fatigue scores (P = .009, baseline 4.6 +/- 1.7, postexercise intervention 1.8 +/- 1.6) and depression scores (P = .023, baseline 19 +/- 11.5, postexercise intervention 12 +/- 8.2) were observed. Marginally significant decrease in interleukin-6 (IL-6; P = .059) with no significant changes in IL-10 (P = .223) or interferon-gamma (P = .882) were observed.

Conclusion: Administration of exercise to acute leukemia patients undergoing treatment is feasible. The exercise protocol used increased cardiovascular endurance, reduced fatigue and depression scores, and maintained quality of life. Although no significant change in inflammation was observed, a trend demonstrating a reduction in IL-6 and an increase in IL-10 warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / blood
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / complications
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cytokines