Background: Exercise is becoming an important component of
cancer rehabilitation programs. A consistent finding across studies is
that patients experience improved physical fitness and reduced fatigue.
However, sustained physical activity is essential if the benefits are to
be preserved over the course of cancer survivorship.
Objective: This study examined self-reported short-term
exercise adherence following a 6-week, supervised exercise program (muscle
strength, cardiovascular fitness, relaxation, body awareness, and massage)
in a heterogeneous group of 61 cancer patients (mean age 42.9 years, 82%
oncological and 18% haematological) from the Body & Cancer
Methods: Semistructured interviews were used to
quantitatively assess leisure time physical activity level 1 and 3 months
after completion of the program. The study furthermore included 3-month
follow-up assessment of psychological distress (Hospital Anxiety and
Depression Scale—HADS). Patient statements were selected that best
illustrated trends found in the statistical material.
Results: There was a significant postprogram reduction in
physical activity from 6 to 10 weeks and from 6 to 18 weeks. However, the
patients (half of whom were still undergoing treatment at the time of
follow-up) reported a higher physical activity level postprogram compared
to their baseline levels. The analyses showed a positive association
between the 3-month postprogram physical activity level and pre-illness
physical activity level, treatment, and postprogram changes in
Significance of research: Given the significant decrease in
postprogram PA level, especially in subjects still undergoing cancer
treatment, the study suggests that continuous supervised programs may be
required in order to encourage and support exercise adherence in this
population. However, randomized clinical controlled trials and more
follow-up studies are needed to establish the optimal program length and
content for sustained exercise adherence in cancer patients.