, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 957-962
Date: 27 Apr 2011

The exercise programming preferences and activity levels of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment

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Research has shown that patients who undergo regular physical activity during cancer treatment have significantly better physical functioning, cardiorespiratory fitness, psychological well-being and quality of life than those who do not. Despite the apparent value of exercise, few patients undertake regular physical activity during treatment and usually find it difficult to return to pre-treatment levels of activity following treatment completion. The purpose of this study was to compare pre-treatment versus on-treatment activity levels of outpatients receiving radiotherapy at a cancer centre in Australia and to identify patients’ preferences and barriers to exercise during this time.


One hundred and twenty consecutive patients undergoing radical radiotherapy were approached. Ninety-two patients (77%) answered questions on medical and demographic variables, past and current activity levels and exercise counselling and programming preferences.


Patients reported a decrease in the time spent exercising once radiotherapy treatment started and were less likely to engage in strenuous activities. Seventy-nine percent of patients reported that cancer and its treatments had affected their ability to exercise. Seventy-one percent wanted information about exercise during treatment and preferred to receive this information from an exercise specialist who is affiliated with the hospital. A home-based independent exercise program was preferred by 53% of patients but there was less consistency around when to begin an exercise program.


The study indicates that a significant proportion of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy want information, counselling and support regarding exercise and exercise programming.