Effects of an Exercise Program in Colon Cancer Patients undergoing Chemotherapy

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 May;48(5):767-75. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000855.


Purpose: Fatigue is a common problem among colon cancer patients and typically increases during chemotherapy. Exercise during chemotherapy might have beneficial effects on fatigue. To investigate the short- and long-term effects of an exercise program in colon cancer patients during adjuvant treatment, the Physical Activity During Cancer Treatment study was conducted.

Methods: In this multicenter randomized controlled trial, 33 colon cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (21 men and 12 women) were randomly assigned to either a group receiving an 18-wk supervised exercise program (n = 17) or to usual care (n = 16). The primary outcome was fatigue as measured by the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory and the Fatigue Quality List. Secondary outcomes were quality of life, physical fitness, anxiety, depression, body weight, and chemotherapy completion rate. Outcome assessment took place at baseline, postintervention (18 wk) and at 36 wk.

Results: Intention-to-treat mixed linear model analyses showed that patients in the intervention group experienced significantly less physical fatigue at 18 wk and general fatigue at 36 wk (mean between group differences, -3.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], -6.2 to -0.2; effect size [ES], -0.9 and -2.7; 95% CI, -5.2 to -0.1; ES, -0.8, respectively), and reported higher physical functioning (12.3; 95% CI, 3.3-21.4; ES, 1.0) compared with patients in the usual care group.

Conclusion: The Physical Activity During Cancer Treatment trial shows that an 18-wk supervised exercise program in colon cancer patients during chemotherapy is safe and feasible. The intervention significantly reduced physical fatigue at 18 wk and general fatigue at 36 wk. Considering the number of patients included in the present study, replication in a larger study population is required.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Physical Fitness
  • Quality of Life

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN43801571
  • NTR/NTR2138