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Cancer survivors often have many psychological and physical adverse events as a result of the cancer and treatment for it. They also suffer from poorer quality of life (QoL) than people without cancer. Some studies have suggested that exercise may be helpful in reducing negative outcomes and improving the QoL of people who have finished cancer treatment. Also, a better QoL may predict longer life. This review looked at the effect of exercise on QoL and areas of life that make up QoL (e.g. tiredness, anxiety, emotional health) among people who had finished all cancer treatment.

The review included 40 trials with a total of 3694 people. The results suggest that exercise may improve overall QoL right after the exercise program is completed. Exercise may also reduce the person’s worry about his or her cancer, and affect the way the person views his or her body.  Exercise may also help the way the person deals with emotions, sexuality, sleep problems, or functions in society.  Exercise also reduced anxiety, tiredness, and pain at different times during and after the exercise program.  No effect of exercise was found on the person’s ability to think clearly or his or her role function in society.  Also, no effect of exercise was found on the way the person views his or her spiritual or physical health, or physical ability.

However, these findings need to be viewed with caution because this review looked at many different kinds of exercise programs, which varied by type of exercise, length of the program, and how hard the trial participants had to exercise. Also, the investigators used a number of different ways to measure QoL.

More research is needed to see how to maintain the effects of exercise over a longer period of time after the exercise program is completed, and to determine which parts of the exercise program are necessary (i.e. when to start the program, type of exercise, length of program or exercise session, how hard to exercise). It is also important to find out if one type of exercise is better for a specific cancer type than another for the maximum effect on QoL. —Cochrane Review



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