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25.07.2017 | Review Article | Ausgabe 10/2017

Supportive Care in Cancer 10/2017

Safety and feasibility of exercise interventions in patients with advanced cancer: a systematic review

Supportive Care in Cancer > Ausgabe 10/2017
Reginald Heywood, Alexandra L. McCarthy, Tina L. Skinner


Goals of work

The beneficial effects of exercise in cancer patients are reasonably well-established, although research in this field has predominantly investigated cancer patients in the earlier stages of disease. However, the most recent evidence surrounding exercise interventions in advanced cancer populations has yet to be systematically evaluated. This review critically analyses the safety and feasibility of exercise interventions in patients with advanced cancer.


All randomised, non-randomised and prospective observational trials of exercise training interventions in patients with advanced cancer were included. ‘Safety’ was defined as the number and severity of reported adverse events during exercise training. ‘Feasibility’ was determined by participant adherence, attendance and/or study completion rates.


A total of 25 studies involving 1088 patients were included: 16 randomised controlled and nine prospective observational cohort trials. Seven studies included advanced lung cancer patients exclusively, while eight involved patients with various cancer diagnoses. Aerobic exercise was investigated in five studies, resistance training in two studies and combination training (aerobic and resistance) in 14 studies. Six minor adverse events were reported due to exercise. All of these were musculoskeletal in nature, resulting in two participants’ withdrawal from the study. Exercise adherence ranged from 65 to 89% but was only described in nine studies. Attendance at each exercise session was described in a further nine studies, ranging from 59 to 100%.


Implementation of exercise interventions appears to be safe and feasible in advanced cancer clinical practice, although targeted studies are required to determine the optimal exercise dose for specific cancer diagnoses.

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