Exercise and The Cancer Patient: Function Improves Independent of Cardiovascular and Anthropometric Changes


Courtney Jensen: 0000-0001-9774-0694

Document Type

Conference Presentation


Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Department

Conference Title

2018 ACSM National Conference


American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)


Minneapolis, MN

Conference Dates

May 29 - June 2, 2018

Date of Presentation

May 2018

Journal Publication

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise









Publication Date



Each year, approximately 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer. The consequences of cancer and its associated treatment include elevations in cardiovascular risk, deteriorating body composition, and diminishing physical function. Exercise is an effective countermeasure; however, limitations in adherence may compromise the magnitude of improvement experienced. PURPOSE: To evaluate cardiovascular, anthropometric, and functional adaptations to an exercise program in cancer survivors. METHODS: We conducted a 10-week exercise intervention on 157 cancer survivors; 58 were retained through follow-up. At baseline, we recorded demographic, anthropometric, cardiovascular, and functional data. Anthropometric measurements were weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat percent (BF%). Cardiovascular measurements were blood pressure and heart rate. Functional tests were VO2 max, six-minute walk, timed up-and-go, chair stand, sit-to-stand, arm curl, grip strength, Universal Machine (UM) push and pull, epic lift, sit-and-reach, functional reach, and back scratch. Paired-samples t tests measured changes from baseline to follow-up. RESULTS: Anthropometric variables did not change: body weight (p=0.585), BMI (p=0.477), and BF% (p=0.367). Cardiovascular variables did not change: systolic blood pressure (p=0.560), diastolic pressure (p=0.292), and heart rate (p=1.000). Improvement was detected in 11 of 13 functional tests: VO2 max (p=0.005), six-minute walk (p<0.001), timed up-and-go (p<0.001), chair stand (p<0.001), sit-to-stand (p=0.005), arm curl (p<0.001), grip strength (p<0.001), UM push (p<0.001), UM pull (p<0.001), epic lift (p=0.005), and functional reach (p=0.001). Mean values improved in sit-and-reach (p=0.321) and back-scratch (p=0.099), but pre-post comparisons were not significant. CONCLUSION: Exercise had no effect on anthropometric or cardiovascular profiles, but physical functioning improved in nearly every domain. In this population, maintenance of functional capacity can help preserve the ability to perform tasks of daily living, and it associates with survival. Although we found exercise to improve strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility, the high rate of attrition is a potential limitation; further research is necessary to confirm our findings.