Strasser, B., Steindorf, K., Wiskemann, J., & Ulrich, C.M. (2013). Impact of resistance training in cancer survivors: A meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45, 2080–2090.

DOI Link


STUDY PURPOSE: The purpose of this article was to review published literature on impact resistance training (RT) in adults with cancer.

TYPE OF STUDY: Meta-analysis and systematic review

Search Strategy

DATABASES USED: Clinical Trial Register, Cochrane Trial Register, MEDLINE, and EMBASE

KEYWORDS: cancer, resistance training, muscle function, muscle strength, body mass, fatigue

INCLUSION CRITERIA: RCT comparing RT with an exercise or non-exercise control group in adult patients with cancer. Evaluation and report on strength, body composition, or fatigue comparing RT to no exercise, usual care, or alternative treatment.

EXCLUSION CRITERIA: Single RT intervention, intervention less than six weeks, recommendation of interventions with no further detail, indirectly or poorly documented RT, clinical co-intervention not applied to control, concomitant aerobic endurance training not applied to control

Literature Evaluated


EVALUATION METHOD AND COMMENTS ON LITERATURE USED: Assessed by Jadad score (randomization, double-blinding, follow-up, intention to treat). Scores higher than two considered.

Sample Characteristics

  • SAMPLE RANGE ACROSS STUDIES, TOTAL PATIENTS INCLUDED IN REVIEW: Total patients = 1,323 (594 RT and 555 control, 174 aerobic endurance not included in meta-analysis); studies collecting fatigue = 437
  • KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: 72% women, 57% breast cancer, 21% prostate cancer, 7% head and neck cancer, 14% any cancer. Six studies during cancer treatment, eight after completion. Mean age range = 47–75 years. Nine studies recruited only women.

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications

PHASE OF CARE: Multiple phases of care


Four studies provided FACT-fatigue data. Improvement was seen in pooled fatigue scores (p = .05; WMD 1.86; CI -.03–3.75). Individually, two studies showed significant improvement. The therapeutic dose necessary to reduce fatigue was unable to be determined. No significant difference was seen in participant characteristics. No significant side effects were reported.


Low-to-moderate intensity RT may improve cancer-related fatigue described as muscle fatigue within 15–20 repetitions.


  • Heterogeneity between treatment stage, cancer type, and type of RT intervention
  • Not all studies measure fatigue data
  • Limited to English-only and three databases

Nursing Implications

RT may have benefits for fatigue with a certain subset of patients with cancer with low risk for side effects. Further studies are needed to establish dose and to validate improvement for certain populations.

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