Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 969–983 | Cite as

Effects of aerobic exercise on cancer-related fatigue: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Review Article



Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is the most commonly reported and most distressing symptom in cancer patients. Currently, there are no effective strategies for managing this condition.


The purpose of this study is to compare the effects of aerobic exercise on CRF with the standard of care.


A systematic search for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was performed using the Cochrane Library, JBI Library, Embase, MEDLINE, Web of Science, China Biology Medicine (CBM), and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI). The risk of bias was critically evaluated, and data were independently extracted by two reviewers. All of the analyses were performed using Review Manager 5.


A total of 26 qualified studies that included 2830 participants (aerobic exercise, 1426; control, 1404) were included in the meta-analysis. Cancer patients who completed adjuvant therapy in the aerobic exercise group reported reduced CRF levels relative to patients undergoing the standard of care. Aerobic exercise had a moderate effect on CRF for patients not currently undergoing anticancer treatment. Supervised aerobic exercise, exercise for 20–30 min/session, or exercise three times/week had a small effect on CRF. Exercise for 50 min/session or exercise two sessions/week had a significant effect on patient CRF, whereas 8 weeks of exercise had a moderate effect.


Aerobic exercise is effective for the management of CRF, especially for patients who have completed adjuvant therapy.

Implications for practice

Cancer patients can make more informed choices regarding their cancer-related fatigue management based on the best available evidence.


Aerobic exercise Cancer-related fatigue Meta-analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.The First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow UniversitySuzhouChina
  3. 3.School of NursingSoochow UniversitySuzhouChina

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