Purpose: Clinical trials have demonstrated the benefits of exercise for cancer survivors. This investigation determined the effectiveness and safety of a disseminated community-based exercise program for cancer survivors who had completed treatment.
Methods: Personal trainers from regional YMCAs received training in cancer rehabilitation and supervised twice-a-week, 12-week group exercise sessions for survivors. At baseline and post-program, validated measures assessed patient-reported outcomes (PRO) and physiologic measurements.
Results: Data were collected from 221 survivors from 13 YMCA sites and 36 separate classes. All participants had data available at one time point, while matched baseline and post-program PRO and physiologic data were available for 85% (N = 187). Participants with matched data were largely female (82%), with mean age of 58 (range, 28-91 years). Time since diagnosis ranged from 1 to 48 (mean, 5.6 years), and mean time since last treatment was 3.0 (range, 1-33 years). Physiological improvements were significant in systolic (P < 0.001) and diastolic (P = 0.035) blood pressure, upper and lower body strength, the 6-min walk test (P = 0.004), and flexibility (P < 0.001). Participants reported improvements in overall health-related quality of life (P < 0.001), social support (P = 0.019), body pain (P = 0.016), fatigue (P < 0.001), insomnia (P < 0.001), and overall musculoskeletal symptoms (P = <0.001). Few injuries or lymphedema events occurred during classes.
Conclusions: Community-based exercise groups for cancer survivors of mixed diagnoses and ages, who have completed active treatment, have physiologic and psychosocial benefits, and are safe.
Implications for cancer survivors: Survivors may expect significant benefit from participating in a community-based exercise program tailored to meet their individual needs as a survivor.