A RCT of a structured exercise intervention after the completion of acute cancer treatment in adolescents and young adults

Morgan Atkinson, Andrew Murnane, Thomas Goddard, Cathy Pendergrast, Paul Rogers, Rebecca Manudhane and Michael Osborn

Cardiorespiratory fitness is reduced in cancer survivors across the age spectrum. This often persists into long-term survivorship, and is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk and late mortality. Impaired fitness may also contribute to the well-documented worse physical functioning, poorer health-related quality of life (QOL), and excessive fatigue experienced by adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors.

Consequently, there is interest in developing effective physical activity interventions to improve cardiorespiratory fitness in AYA cancer survivors.

The purpose of this current RCT was to determine whether a 10-week structured exercise intervention was associated with improved cardiorespiratory fitness, as measured by VO2peak, when compared with controls in AYA patients who had recently completed acute systemic cancer treatment.

Exercise sessions were conducted at hospital and community-based gymnasiums. Exercise interventions were tailored to each individual participant utilizing aerobic and resistance training guidelines as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine and Exercise and Sports Science Australia. Exercise sessions were supervised by accredited exercise physiologists (AEP) with exercise intensity monitored using heart rate monitors and the Borg scale. The goal of the exercise intervention was to increase VO2peak andmuscular strength.

The primary finding of this study was that a 10-week structured exercise program was associated with a highly significant improvement in VO2peak in AYA who had recently completed cancer treatment. However, the extent of this difference diminished by the six-month assessment. This suggests that such an exercise program accelerates improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness following cancer treatment, and a continuing maintenance exercise program warrants investigation.