Clinical exercise interventions in pediatric oncology: a systematic review

Pediatr Res. 2013 Oct;74(4):366-74. doi: 10.1038/pr.2013.123. Epub 2013 Jul 15.


Studies in pediatric oncology have shown a positive effect of physical activity on disease- and treatment-related side effects. Although several reviews have approved the benefits of therapeutic exercise for adult cancer patients, no systematic review exists summarizing the evidence of physical activity in pediatric oncology. We identified a total of 17 studies using the PubMed database and Cochrane library. To evaluate the evidence, we used the evaluation system of the Oxford Center for Evidence-Based Medicine 2001. The findings confirm that clinical exercise interventions are feasible and safe, especially with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients and during medical treatment. No adverse effects have been reported. Positive effects were found on fatigue, strength, and quality of life. Single studies present positive effects on the immune system, body composition, sleep, activity levels, and various aspects of physical functioning. Child-specific aspects such as cognitive abilities, growth, adolescence, and reintegration into peer-groups, school, and sports have barely been taken into consideration. The evidence for exercise interventions in pediatric oncology is rated level "3." Although the results are very promising, future research of high methodological quality and focusing on child-specific aspects is needed to establish evidence-based exercise recommendations, particularly for childhood cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / therapy*
  • PubMed