Exercise Helps Improve Outcomes
for Cancer Patients
Learn about the latest research
Overview of the Research

Recent studies demonstrate that exercise helps decrease adverse side effects resulting from cancer and cancer treatments, and can reduce the risks of cancer recurrence and mortality. Here is an overview of some of the most compelling research to date.
  • In a 2017 meta-analysis, a total of 100 studies were reviewed involving thousands of individual patients whose exercise behavior was assessed following the diagnosis of any type of cancer. The study states that, “Compared with patients who performed no/less exercise, patients who exercised following a diagnosis of cancer were observed to have a lower relative risk of cancer mortality and recurrence and experienced fewer/less severe adverse effects.” 1
  • A 2016 study published in Epidemiologic Review found that patients who were more physically active had a lower relative risk of breast cancer recurrence (pooled hazard ratios range from 0.79 to 0.76). Furthermore, cancer patients with more positive exercise behaviors are observed to have a lower relative risk of all-cause mortality.

    Specifically, superior levels of exercise following a cancer diagnosis were associated with a 28% to 44% reduced risk of cancer-specific mortality, a 21% to 35% lower risk of cancer recurrence, and a 25% to 48% decreased risk of all-cause mortality.

  • Another study followed nearly 3,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer at stages I, II or III who exercised at a level of three (3) or more MET-hours (metabolic equivalent task) a week. Three MET-hours is equivalent to walking at average pace of 2 to 2.9 mph for one hour.

    The study found that the women who exercised nine to 14 MET-hours per week had a 50% reduced relative risk of death from cancer.

    The study states that physical activity has been linked to lower levels of circulating ovarian hormones, which may explain the relationship between physical activity and breast cancer. Lower estrogen levels among physically active women with breast cancer could potentially improve survival, although few data exist to support this hypothesis. 2
Prescribing Exercise

Roughly 75% of people with cancer, however, do not meet the exercise guidelines. Therefore, the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) has recently called for exercise to become part of the standard of care for all cancer patients. Taking into consideration all current evidence, COSA recommends:
  • Exercise should become part of the standard practice in cancer care to offset the negative effects of treatment.
  • The role of exercise in cancer recovery should be discussed with all patients.
  • All cancer care providers should promote physical activity and adherence to exercise guidelines.
  • Best practice should include referral to an accredited physical therapist or exercise physiologist with specialized cancer care training.

Cancer Rehabilitation Can Help Reduce Costs

One of the keys to reducing cancer cost is to reduce adverse side effects, comorbid events and cancer recurrence. Insofar as the current research demonstrates that exercise is an effective intervention against all of these, rehabilitation should be a key part of any value-based approach to cancer care delivery and cost reduction strategy.

ReVital’s cancer rehabilitation specialists can help reduce the total cost of care for patients. The ReVital team has extensive training in the short, long and late term effects of cancer treatments and understands the impact of cancer treatment on a patient’s functional status and quality of life. Our clinicians have the tools to prescribe a safe, effective multimodal exercise and education program for people with all cancer types from diagnosis through palliative care. And they also stay on top of the latest research to ensure treatment plans follow evidence based and best practice standards.

To learn more about how ReVital can help you reduce the cost of cancer care, contact us.

1. Epidemiol Rev. 2017 Jan 1;39(1):71-92. doi: 10.1093/epirev/mxx007. The Impact of Exercise on Cancer Mortality, Recurrence, and Treatment-Related Adverse Effects.
2. JAMA. 2005;293(20):2479-2486. doi:10.1001/jama.293.20.2479. Physical Activity and Survival After Breast Cancer Diagnosis.