Exercise can help cancer patients fight fatigue

Fatigue, one of the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, can be reduced through aerobic exercise, according to a new study published by the University of the West of England Bristol last week.

Cancer patients can suffer from fatigue for months or years, which may make them less inclined to go on with the treatment. Previously, people suffering the effects of cancer-related fatigue had been advised to rest. However, being inactive for long periods of time may result in muscle wasting and even increased fatigue. The study showed that rest, balanced with physical activity, may help relieve tiredness.

The new research, funded by the UK's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme, adds another 28 studies to the previous 28 studies in the 2008 review. The 56 studies involved 4,068 people, with half of the studies carried out with breast cancer patients. Results showed that aerobic exercise, including cycling and walking, produced benefits for people with solid tumours, both during the cancer treatment and afterwards. Fatigue was not significantly reduced by other forms of exercise, such as resistance training.

Lead researcher Fiona Cramp said that the research added to previous evidence showing the beneficial effects of some forms of exercise on fatigue in cancer patients. However, it is yet to be seen how the positive impact of physical activity on fatigue was affected by cancer treatment, she added, noting that researchers also needed to study how the results were impacted by the frequency and duration of exercise as well as the different types of cancer.