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Exercise during chemotherapy, with medical supervision, can assist cancer patients manage some negative side negative effects. Ivan Gener/Stocksy

  • Researchers from the Netherlands conducted a five-year study for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy to determine if the timing of an exercise regimen has an impact on cardiovascular health.

  • Researchers placed participants in two groups: those who did exercise during chemotherapy and those who exercised after their chemotherapy treatment had ended.

  • The study found that patients might experience an improvement in their cardiorespiratory condition faster if they start exercising while they are undergoing treatment.

Chemotherapy is an established treatment for cancer, but it can cause many adverse undesirable side adverse effects. One problem that chemotherapy causes is that it decreases the peak oxygen consumption of patients.

In this regard, researchers from different institutions in the Netherlands collaborated to determine the effects that exercising prior to or following chemo treatments could have.

The most recent research on the subject was published by JACC CardioOncology.

Cancer is a major concern for thousands of individuals. The

American Cancer Society

(ACS) estimates that doctors detected about 1.9 million cancer cases in 2021 . They also estimated that close to 610,000 patients died from cancer.

There are many methods to treat cancer like removing cancerous tumors using surgery or by using radiation therapies. But, the treatment for cancer depends on the kind of the cancer and how much it has grown.

Doctors typically treat patients suffering from cancer using chemotherapy. According to


Chemotherapy “is known as a systemic treatment since the drugs circulate throughout the body . They can eliminate cancerous cells which have spread to different parts of the body which are quite a distance from the initial tumor.”

Certain types of

Chemotherapy drugs

These include antimetabolites, alkylating agents including alkaloids from plants, antitumor antibiotics.

Chemotherapy can cause

side effects


Furthermore, chemotherapy can alter the cardiorespiratory capacity.

The goal of the research team was to find out what impact the time of exercise has on the cardiovascular fitness of those who are receiving chemotherapy.

Doctors assess a person’s cardiorespiratory health by observing the peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak). Based on the

National Institutes for Health

, VO2peak is “a measure that integrates skeletal and cardiovascular oxygenation function of muscles.”

“In prior studies, in which patients were not enrolled in an exercise session in conjunction with adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy radiotherapy, chemotherapy as well as hormonal treatment) there was a decrease of as high as 25% of VO2peak level was observed when compared to healthy, females who were sedentary,” write the authors. “VO2peak and levels of physical activity are strongly related to heart disease risk .”

Researchers studied a population of 266 patients who had at least one of the types of cancer including testicular, breast colon or lymphoma.

Researchers randomly placed participants into two groups. The group A comprised people who had enrolled in a 12-week supervision training regimen (36 sessions) in the course of chemotherapy, and then continued for another 36 sessions spread over 12 weeks of at-home exercise following chemotherapy. Group B comprised people who began their exercise program following the completion of chemotherapy.

In the supervision part of the exercise participants rode stationary bikes to exercise their cardio and exercised with weights or equipment for strengthening their muscles. Researchers analyzed the VO2peak of the participants using bicycle Ergometers.

After determining the baseline VO2peak levelsat baseline, the researchers monitored their levels on a regular basis in accordance with the course they took. The researchers also surveyed with the participants one year after they had completed the chemotherapy treatment and exercises.

Whatever the time that the participants began their exercise programmes regardless of when they started their exercise programs, both groupings were back to the same baseline score when they had their annual examination.

However the VO2peak levels of those who took part in the exercise program throughout the chemotherapy treatment were not as low after three months after their treatment period the levels were back to their normal levels. However, the levels of VO2peak in Group B decreased for longer, but they also increased after three months of exercise supervised post-chemotherapy.

“These results suggest that the optimal timing for physical exercise is during chemotherapy” claims study’s lead the study’s author Dr. Annemiek M.E. Walenkamp. “However starting an exercise routine following chemotherapy can be a viable alternative if exercising during chemotherapy isn’t feasible.

Dr. Walenkamp is an oncologist at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.

“We believe that our findings will encourage healthcare professionals to encourage patients to participate in exercise exercises as part of their cancer therapy,” says Dr. Walenkamp.

Doctor. Rami Hashish, body specialist in injury and performance and the founder of the National Biomechanics Institute, spoke with Medical News Today about the study.

Dr. Hashish said that the study offers “evidence that exercising with a trained instructor during aerobic and anaerobic exercises during chemotherapy may help to keep you from fatigue and reduce reductions in the strength of muscles and cardiorespiratory fitness and, consequently, an improved quality of life compared to those who do not exercise.”

“The results further indicate that nothing is lost in patients who are unable to exercise while undergoing chemotherapy, since an exercise program that is monitored after the conclusion of chemotherapy can help these patients reach similar levels of performance within a year.”

– –Dr. Rami Hashish

Doctor. Hashish said that people who are undergoing chemotherapy should consult with their doctor regarding what’s best for them regarding exercising, but he believed that taking a walk and riding stationary bikes might be secure.

“I recommend against the level of exercise, as opposed to not doing a certain exercise, but the intensity of exercise will be determined by the specific health condition of each individual and must also be set by a medical professional who is supervising,” said Dr. Hashish.

The doctor. Samantha Edwards, a physical therapy specialist was also involved and stated that”the research “demonstrates the immediate benefits of exercise in preventing decline in chemotherapy.”

The Dr. Edwards is the assistant manager for rehabilitation treatments for Atlantic Rehabilitation in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. She is in charge of the Moving Beyond program, an exercise program for patients with cancer after treatment.

There are numerous advantages of exercising during chemotherapy treatments that Dr. Edwards elaborated on for MNT.

“These may include improved endurance, fatigue and strength, as well as overall health,” said Dr. Edwards. “Exercising can also aid in improving the patient’s balance that can be affected by chemotherapy if a patient has peripheral neuropathy .”

“A balanced regimen that includes cardio exercises along with a strength program that targets the body’s main muscles is recommended. The intensity of your exercise should be maintained within the moderate to low range , and must be determined by the healthcare professional treating the patient.”

— Dr. Samantha Edwards