Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 339–345 | Cite as

Physical activity and fitness in adolescent and young adult long-term survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

  • Liisa S. Järvelä
  • Harri Niinikoski
  • Päivi M. Lähteenmäki
  • Olli J. Heinonen
  • Jukka Kapanen
  • Mikko Arola
  • Jukka Kemppainen



There is a lack of data on physical activity (PA) and fitness of adolescent and young adult very long-term survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).


We studied 21 childhood ALL long-term survivors (aged 16–30 years, median time since diagnosis 15.9y), diagnosed in 1986–1996, with age- and sex-matched controls. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and muscle strength were measured and physical activity index (PAI; MET h/week) calculated.


Mean VO2peak of the ALL survivors was 34.8 ± 9.3 ml/kg/min. This was 14% lower than that of the controls (−5.7 ml/kg/min, 95% CI −9.4 to −1.9, p = 0.01), and all the 11 female survivors performed below the age-adjusted reference values. The survivors also performed poorer in the sit-up and maximal jump tests (p = 0.02 and p = 0.004). Body mass index and PAI were similar in survivors and controls (p = 0.34 and p = 0.52). Nonetheless, as much as 30% of the male survivors and 36% of the female survivors had PAI ≤ 5 indicating very low levels of physical activity (PA).


Insufficient PA and poor physical fitness are clinically important issues in childhood ALL long-term survivors treated with modern protocols. Girls seem to be especially at risk. PA and better physical fitness decrease cardiovascular mortality irrespective of weight. Thus, PA should be promoted throughout and after the treatment for ALL.

Implications for cancer survivors

Since insufficient PA and poor physical fitness are an issue in very long-term ALL survivors, they should be informed on the benefits of physical activity, and be strongly encouraged to adopt a physically active lifestyle.


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia Fitness Late effect Obesity Physical activity 



This study was financially supported by the Nona and Kullervo Väre Foundation, the Foundation for Paediatric Research, the Finnish Cancer Society, the Turku University Foundation, and grants from South-West Finland and Pirkanmaa Hospital Districts. Part of the results was presented at the Nordic Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (NOPHO) annual meeting 2008, and at the European symposium on late complications after childhood cancer (ESLCCC) 2009. Saija Hurme, MSc, is acknowledged for statistical consultation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liisa S. Järvelä
    • 1
    • 2
  • Harri Niinikoski
    • 1
  • Päivi M. Lähteenmäki
    • 1
  • Olli J. Heinonen
    • 2
  • Jukka Kapanen
    • 2
  • Mikko Arola
    • 3
  • Jukka Kemppainen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PaediatricsTurku University HospitalTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Paavo Nurmi Centre, Department of Physiology, and Department of Health and Physical ActivityUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Department of PaediatricsTampere University HospitalTampereFinland
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear MedicineTurku University HospitalTurkuFinland

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