Exercise Training and Cardiovascular Health in Cancer Patients

  • Ray W. Squires
  • Adam M. Shultz
  • Joerg Herrmann
Cardio-oncology (EH Yang, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cardio-oncology


Purpose of Review

Cancer patients nearly universally experience a decline in quality of life, with fatigue and reduced exercise tolerance as cardinal reflections. A routine exercise program can improve these signs and symptoms as well as overall outcomes. The review provides an updated overview of the field and its translation to clinical practice.

Recent Findings

A wealth of clinical studies have documented the safety and benefits of exercise after and during cancer therapy, and pilot and larger-scale studies are currently ongoing to integrate exercise into the treatment program for cancer patients undergoing active therapy (EXACT pilot, OptiTrain, and TITAN study). More recently, efforts have emerged to commence exercise programs before the start of cancer therapy, so-called pre-habilitation. The concept of increasing the cardiovascular reserve beforehand is intuitively attractive. In agreement, preclinical studies support exercise as an effective preventive means before and during cardiotoxic drug exposure. Assuming that a pronounced drop in exercise tolerance will occur during cancer therapy, pre-habilitation can potentially curtail or raise the nadir level of exercise tolerance. Furthermore, such efforts might serve as pre-conditioning efforts in reducing not only the nadir, but even the magnitude of drop in cardiovascular reserve. Initiated beforehand, cancer patients are also more likely to continue these efforts during cancer therapy. Finally, an active exercise routine (≥ 150 min/week moderate intensity or ≥ 75 min/week vigorous intensity or combination) in conjunction with the other six American Heart Association’s cardiovascular health metrics (BMI < 25 kg/m2, blood pressure < 120/80 mmHg, fasting plasma glucose < 100 mg/dL, total cholesterol < 200 mg/dL, 4–5 component healthy diet, no smoking) reduces not only the cardiovascular but also the cancer disease risk.


Exercise can reduce the risks of developing cancer, the detrimental effects of its treatment on the cardiovascular system, and overall morbidity and mortality. Exercise should become an integral part of the care for every cancer patient.


Aerobic capacity Cancer Cardiomyopathy Cardiopulmonary fitness Chemotherapy Exercise Prognosis 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Ray W. Squires, Adam M. Shultz, and Joerg Herrmann declare they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ray W. Squires
    • 1
  • Adam M. Shultz
    • 1
  • Joerg Herrmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cardiovascular MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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