Exercise training mitigates some adverse side effects (i.e. fatigue, nausea) of chemotherapy. However, many patients with cancer do not participate in regular exercise due to these adverse side effects as well as other common barriers (e.g. access, time, motivation). This brief report describes the physiological response during a low level cycle ergometry exercise, performed while patients were receiving their chemotherapy infusion. Additionally, the frequency of clinical events following exercise infusion was reported.
Breast cancer patients (n = 14, mean age = 54) who were currently participating in the Exercise and Cancer Integrative Therapies Education Program (ExCITE) at Henry Ford Hospital were asked to perform self-selected light intensity exercise on a portable leg ergometry machine (Monarck) while receiving chemotherapy. Heart rate during exercise infusion was maintained approximately at 30–40% of heart rate reserve. Differences in adverse clinical events following the exercise-infusion sessions were compared to standard infusion only visits (no exercise) using a Pearson Chi-Square test.
These 5 patients underwent 17 chemotherapy infusions during exercise i. Participants tolerated the exercise during infusion with no adverse events completing an average duration of 16.4 + 6.2 minutes at a work rate of 18 + 6 W and an exercise heart rate 24 beats above rest. Additionally, there were fewer reported adverse clinical events following exercise infusion compared to infusion alone (12% vs. 53%; P = 0.002).
These preliminary data indicate that performing light-intensity exercise during chemotherapy infusion can be well tolerated in select patients. Further research is needed to further assess safety and if an exercise during chemotherapy may have any clinical benefit.