Lymphoma in the news: Exercise after completion of cancer treatment improves quality of life

By Peter Martin, MD

A recently published meta-analysis focused on the effects of physical activity in adults who had completed their cancer therapy (click here to read the abstract). Fong and colleagues compiled data from 34 randomized studies that assigned participants to either exercise or no exercise. Most of the studies evaluated aerobic exercise, and the average duration of activity was 13 weeks. Not surprisingly, participants randomized to exercise experienced significant improvements in body mass index, weight, and power output among other measures. Importantly, they also experienced significant gains in quality of life and other psychological outcomes (e.g., fatigue, depression).

A meta-analysis is a study that combines results from multiple related studies to derive a more powerful estimate of a true effect (click here to read more about meta-analyses). Although meta-analyses are often derided and are subject to various forms of bias, a well-performed meta-analysis is one of the most powerful methods of controlling for variation between studies and determining a true effect size in a population.

The results of this meta-analysis strongly suggest that patients who have completed cancer therapy can benefit from an exercise program. Moreover, it behooves oncologists to discuss the potential role of an exercise program with their patients. Patients should be encouraged to discuss the potential role of exercise with the oncologists and primary care physicians.