This study evaluates the physical and psychosocial effects of an inpatient exercise program for children and adolescents undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Participants (n = 70) were randomized to an exercise intervention (IG: resistance, endurance, and flexibility training) or a non-exercise control group (CG: mental and relaxation training). Pre- (prior hospital admission; T0) and post- (day of discharge; T1) measurements included maximal isometric knee extension strength (KES; strain gauge force transducer), hand grip strength (HGS; JAMAR dynamometer), distance walked in 6 min (6MWD; 6-minute walk test), quality of life (QoL; KINDL-R) and medical parameters. Fifty-seven patients (IG: n = 28; 11.0 (5-17) years; CG: n = 29; 12.0 (6-18) years) completed the study. During hospitalization the IG and CG attended on average 3.1 (2-4) or 2.9 (0.3-4) training sessions weekly. KES, 6MWD, and HGS significantly decreased (p < 0.05) in the CG, while there were no changes in the IG. Pre- to post-changes in 6MWD and HGS differed significantly between groups (p < 0.05). QoL declined in both groups (p < 0.05). Our results indicate that a moderate exercise program is feasible and might counteract a treatment-associated decline of physical performance.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01575704.