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Starting Exercise During Treatment May Give Survivors the Best Outcomes

Lori Dehner, Exercise Physiologist, ACSM Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer

We all accept that exercise is beneficial. Many cancer survivors are encouraged to exercise by their care teams to help combat the side effects of treatment and for recurrence prevention. Cognitive concerns, sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression, and body composition changes can all be diminished with exercise.1 Research shows exercise during chemotherapy infusion may be the best time for the therapeutic delivery of exercise.2 At UC Health we have the opportunity to help our patients during their treatment with infusion suite exercise.

An article from Seminars on Oncology Nursing illustrates the benefits of starting exercise early. “Physical Exercise and Cancer: Exploring Chemotherapy Infusion as an Opportunity for Movement” concluded from a review of peer-reviewed literature that exercise during chemotherapy infusion may improve therapeutic health outcomes. More specifically, evidence suggests that exercise can improve chemotherapy drug uptake by changing the tumor microenvironment. Patient experience can also be improved greatly with exercise in infusion by decreasing boredom and increasing patient support.2  Moreover, other research found that patients exercising during their chemotherapy session did not mention more discomfort or increased difficulty when compared to their usual chemotherapy experience.3

At UC Health we are currently offering infusion exercise in a pilot format for a select number of patients at The Barrett Center with the goal to expand. Soon, this service will be available in West Chester. Staff from The Heart, Lung and Vascular Wellness Program bring exercise to infusion patients. This eliminates the common barriers to exercise; lack of time and lack of access to qualified exercise professionals.2 Staff address patients’ strength, cardiovascular fitness, balance, and flexibility goals. Education is also provided as needed. Providers are encouraged to reach out to Melissa Erickson MD, Medical Director, Cancer Survivorship for information on expanding the infusion exercise program to more patients.

The Heart, Lung and Vascular Wellness Program also currently accepts referred patients into the Cancer Exercise Wellness Program at the Clifton and West Chester locations. This service is open to patients currently undergoing treatment and post treatment cancer patients. The program works to help patients reach their health and fitness goals.


  1. Irwin, M. (Ed.). (2012). ACSM’s Guide to Exercise and Cancer Survivorship. Human Kinetics.
  2. Miller, R., Northey, J., & Toohey, K. (2020). Physical exercise and cancer: Exploring chemotherapy infusion as an opportunity for movement. Seminars in Oncology Nursing36.
  3. Thomas, V. J., Seet-Lee, C., Marthick, M., Cheema, B., Boyer, M., & Edwards, K. (2020). Aerobic exercise during chemotherapy infusion for cancer treatment: a novel randomised crossover safety and feasibility trial. Supportive Care in Cancer28.

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