High-intensity exercise interventions in cancer survivors: a systematic review exploring the impact on health outcomes

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: There is an increasing body of evidence underpinning high-intensity exercise as an effective and time-efficient intervention for improving health in cancer survivors. The aim of this study was to, (1) evaluate the efficacy and (2) the safety of high-intensity exercise interventions in improving selected health outcomes in cancer survivors. Methods: Design Systematic review. Data sources Google Scholar and EBSCO, CINAHL Plus, Computers and Applied Sciences Complete, Health Source—Consumer Edition, Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition, MEDLINE, Web of Science and SPORTDiscuss from inception up until August 2017. Eligibility criteria Randomized controlled trials of high-intensity exercise interventions in cancer survivors (all cancer types) with health-related outcome measures. The guidelines adopted for this review were the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA). Results: The search returned 447 articles, of which nine articles (n = 531 participants mean, age 58 ± 9.5 years) met the eligibility criteria. Exercise interventions of between 4 and 18 weeks consisting of high-intensity interval bouts of up to 4-min were compared with a continuous moderate intensity (CMIT) intervention or a control group. High-intensity exercise interventions elicited significant improvements in VO2 max, strength, body mass, body fat and hip and waist circumference compared with CMIT and/or control groups. The studies reviewed showed low risk in participating in supervised high-intensity exercise interventions. Mixed mode high-intensity interventions which included both aerobic and resistance exercises were most effective improving the aerobic fitness levels of cancer survivors by 12.45–21.35%, from baseline to post-intervention. Conclusion: High-intensity exercise interventions improved physical and physiological health-related outcome measures such as cardiovascular fitness and strength in cancer survivors. Given that high-intensity exercise sessions require a shorter time commitment, it may be a useful modality to improve health outcomes in those who are time poor. The risk of adverse events associated with high-intensity exercise was low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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