, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 732-741
Date: 16 Feb 2006

Exercise and side effects among 749 patients during and after treatment for cancer: a University of Rochester Cancer Center Community Clinical Oncology Program Study

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Despite advances in cancer treatment and symptom management, many patients experience side effects from cancer treatments that cause suffering and impair quality of life (QOL). Exercise is a method for enhancing QOL among cancer patients that shows promise in reducing side effects. However, patient participation in exercise is not well defined. We report on exercise participation during and within 6 months after chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the association of exercise with treatment side effects, and the communication between physicians and patients about exercise in a large (N=749) nationwide sample of cancer patients.

Patients and Methods

Participants completed measures that included questions concerning exercise during and after treatment, treatment side effects, and communication with physicians regarding exercise. Questionnaires were administered 2 weeks and 6 months after completion of therapy.


Almost half of the 749 participating patients reported exercising while undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation, and more than half reported exercising during the 6 months after treatment. Exercise was associated with less severe side effects during and after treatment (p≤0.050). More than 30% of patients reporting exercise did not discuss exercise with a physician; however, those who did were more likely to talk with their oncologist than with their primary care provider.


Cancer patients report exercising and appear amenable to attempting exercise during and within 6 months after treatment. Research is needed to assess (1) the frequency, intensity, duration, and mode of exercise; (2) randomized controlled trials with exercise and its influence on treatments and side effects; and (3) physician–patient communication regarding exercise during cancer treatment.