Exercise for Individuals With Lung Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Adverse Events, Feasibility, and Effectiveness

Ben Singh, Rosalind Spence, Megan Steele, Sandra Hayes, Kellie Toohey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the safety (adverse events), feasibility (recruitment, retention, and adherence) and effectiveness of exercise among individuals with lung cancer.

Data Sources
Electronic databases (CINAHL, Cochrane, Ebscohost, MEDLINE, Pubmed, ProQuest Health and Medical Complete, ProQuest Nursing and Allied Health Source, Science Direct, and SPORTDiscus) were searched for randomized, controlled, exercise trials involving individuals with lung cancer that were published prior to May 1, 2020. The PEDro scale was used to assess risk of bias, and the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events was used to classify adverse event severity. Feasibility was assessed by computing median (range) recruitment, retention, and exercise attendance rates. Meta-analyses were performed to evaluate adverse event risk between exercise and usual care, and effects on health outcomes. Subgroup effects for exercise mode, supervision, intervention duration, diagnosis or treatment-related factors, and trial quality were assessed.

Thirty-two trials (n=2109) involving interventions ranging between 1 and 20 weeks were included. Interventions comprised of aerobic (n=13, 41%), resistance (n=1, 3%), combined aerobic and resistance (n=16, 50%) and other exercise (n=2, 6%). There was no difference in the risk of an adverse event between exercise and usual care groups (exercise: n=64 events; usual care: n=61 events]; risk difference: -0.01 [91% CI = -0.02, 0.01]; P = .31). Median recruitment rate was 59% (9%–97%), retention rate was 86% (50%–100%), and adherence rate was 80% (44%–100%). Significant effects of exercise compared to usual care were observed for quality of life, aerobic fitness, upper-body strength, lower-body strength, anxiety, depression, forced expiratory volume, and sleep (standardized mean difference range=0.20–0.59). Subgroup analyses showed that safety, feasibility, and effect was similar irrespective of exercise characteristics, stage at diagnosis, treatment (surgery and chemotherapy), and trial quality.

For individuals with lung cancer (stages I–IV), the risk of an adverse event with exercise is low. Exercise can be feasibly undertaken post-diagnosis and leads to improvements in health-related outcomes. Together, these findings add weight behind the importance of integrating exercise into standard cancer care, including for this specific cancer type.

Implications for Nursing Practice
Exercise should be considered as part of the treatment for all patients with lung cancer at any stage. Exercise has been shown to be low risk and can be feasibly undertaken by patients. The ideal mode, intensity, frequency, or duration of exercise for all patients with lung cancer is not known. Nonetheless, these findings support endorsement of cancer-specific physical activity guidelines, as well as referral to an exercise professional, such as an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist, for those diagnosed with lung cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Article number151076
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Oncology Nursing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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