May 2023 | Authored by: George M. Pikler, M.D., Ph.D., FACP

Inclusion of Exercise in Cancer Treatment Planning

According to a new study, (1) exercising while undergoing chemotherapy can help patients overcome the treatment’s debilitating effects and return to normal life faster. The study included 266 patients undergoing chemotherapy for testicular, breast, or colon cancer or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This was a 6-month exercise program. Half the patients started the program during their chemo treatment (3 months before their chemo was scheduled to end), while the other half started after chemo was finished. Those who worked out during chemotherapy saw a smaller drop in peak oxygen uptake, an indicator of overall fitness — after their chemo was finished. They also saw smaller declines in strength, quality of life, and physical function. And they reported less fatigue. All the study participants were able to restore their fitness back to baseline 1 year after completing the exercise regimen, no matter when they had started it. In this study, participants did 30 minutes of cardio (stationary bike, treadmill) 3 days a week, 20 to 30 minutes of weight training twice a week, and a recreational sport like indoor hockey, soccer, or badminton once a week. They worked with a physical therapist for the first 3 months and were asked to keep up the routine on their own for the last 3 months. If exercise can’t be safely performed during chemo, a tailored activity program afterward can still help.
(1) JACC: CardioOncology, Volume 4, Issue 4, November 2022, Pages 504-506

Erica Cross, PA


Erica is a board certified Physician Assistant. She obtained her Master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies from Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, LA. She began practicing in 2011 and has worked clinically in Orthopedics and Dermatology. The majority of her career has been spent in a Dermatology practice where she assisted in Mohs surgery, treating various types of skin cancer. She also teaches in the medical simulation department at the University of South Alabama and enjoys every aspect of medical education.