Labourey, J. L. (2007). Physical activity in the management of cancer-related fatigue induced by oncological treatments. Annales de Réadaptation et de Médecine Physique, 50, 445–459.

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Search Strategy

PubMed was searched to identify English or French language reports of randomized or controlled studies and meta-analyses concerning the benefits of physical activity in patients receiving cancer treatment. The dates encompassed by the search process were not specified.

Literature Evaluated

Eleven randomized or controlled studies that had evaluated the effects of physical exercise on cancer-related fatigue as one of their primary or secondary objectives were identified for analysis. Varied patient-reported outcome measures were used to evaluate fatigue, including the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30), Piper Fatigue Scale, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue (FACT-F), or the Profile of Mood States (POMS) Fatigue-Inertia subscale. Studies evaluated aerobic exercise, strength training, or a combination of both. Supervised and home-based exercise interventions were studied, and the duration of exercise treatment ranged from only the duration of hospitalization to several months.

Sample Characteristics

  • The groups represented in these studies included survivors of breast cancer and individuals with prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, mixed solid tumors, lymphomas, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
  • In total, 718 patients were represented across these studies, most without metastases.
  • Age ranged from 18 to 77 years.
  • Participants were either undergoing active cancer therapy or had completed therapy.
  • Most study samples were small, with less than 50 participants.


Of the seven studies of exercise during active cancer therapy, five studies (all with less than 25 patients) found no significant differences in fatigue across the treatment period. A sixth study in a highly selected population of patients hospitalized for stem cell transplant noted that fatigue increased significantly in the control group but remained steady in the exercise group. The seventh study of men with prostate adenocarcinoma on hormone therapy and receiving strength training noted a statistically significant improvement in fatigue in patients receiving the strength training intervention.

In the posttreatment setting, three studies with small samples suggested that exercise (aerobic exercise of low or moderate intensity) or a motivational counseling intervention to increase home-based exercise and a small study in patients with breast and colon cancer who were three to 15 months posttreatment showed significant improvement in fatigue as a result of either low- or moderate-intensity exercise, compared to controls. An additional study in patients who had completed chemotherapy or surgery within the past month showed an improvement in aerobic fitness in the intervention group but a statistically significant increase in fatigue.


Taken together, these results suggested that there is no clear evidence that exercise during active treatment improves fatigue outcomes, although it may have a favorable effect on cardiorespiratory conditioning. The results of this review point to the possibility that a minimum of rest or mild activity is needed to promote some initial recovery from treatment-related fatigue before residual fatigue is addressed, but current studies provide no guidance on how long the interval should be between the end of chemotherapy and the start of exercise for therapeutic purposes.

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