SAN ANTONIO, Texas-An exercise rehabilitation program similar to that
used for cardiac patients significantly improved both exercise tolerance and
quality of life (QOL) for cancer patients participating in a pilot study.
Stacey Young-McCaughan, RN, PhD, and colleagues tested the exercise program
in patients at two military medical centers in San Antonio, Texas.
Lieutenant Colonel Young-McCaughan is deputy director of the Congressionally
Directed Medical Research Programs at the US Army Medical Research and
Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
"Often when patients are first diagnosed with cancer they are told
to rest. However, over 40 studies have shown improved QOL with exercise in
patients with cancer," Dr. Young-McCaughan said.
Exercise rehabilitation is seldom used in cancer patients but is standard
care in cardiology, so the researchers adapted a phase II cardiac
rehabilitation program for 62 patients who had been diagnosed with cancer
within the previous 2 years. Patients had a wide range of diagnoses, and 15
were still undergoing cancer treatment while in the exercise study. Half
were male and half were female. Most had early-stage disease. Seven were on
active military duty.
Each exercise session included a warm-up, treadmill exercise, light
resistance training with weights, and a cool-down. Patients also took
education classes on such topics as nutrition, stress reduction, and sleep
improvement. Activity levels were recorded using wrist Actigraph, which
records activity levels for 5 minutes of every hour.
QOL Scores Increased
Dr. Young-McCaughan said that 46 patients (74%) completed the program and
exercised about 4 days per week. In these patients exercise tolerance
increased from 8% to 73% above baseline. "More than half of the
subjects had exercised prior to their cancer diagnoses, but only 30% had
been able to resume an exercise routine following their cancer diagnosis and
treatment," she noted.
Global QOL scores also increased significantly in the patients who
completed exercise rehabilitation. Only the changes in physical (not
psychological) QOL subscales reached statistical significance, according to