Aerobic Exercise Could Help Beat Cancer Fatigue, Review Shows

Running, walking and bicycling could help people with cancer to beat a common side effect of both the disease and its treatment, according to a new review of studies.

"The evidence suggests that exercise may help reduce cancer-related fatigue and should therefore be considered as one component of a strategy for managing fatigue that may include a range of other interventions and education," study researcher Fiona Cramp, of the University of the West of England, said in a statement.

The review included 56 studies, half of which were included in a previous review published in the Cochrane Library, that analyzed the impacts different kinds of exercise had on cancer-related fatigue (half of the studies dealt specifically with breast cancer-related fatigue).

Researchers found that aerobic exercise -- like riding a bike, or running -- was linked with lower levels of fatigue during and post-cancer treatment. However, other kinds of exercise (like resistant training) didn't seem to make much of a difference on fatigue.

Fatigue can be a result of cancer treatment, or the cancer itself. When it's an effect of the cancer treatment, researchers noted that it could negatively impact adherence to treatment. And fatigue from cancer and/or cancer treatment can also lead to long periods of no physical activity, which could result in muscle wasting.

Up to 96 percent of cancer patients may experience cancer-related fatigue, which is "not the normal 'I-stayed-up-too-late' fatigue,'" Dr. Theresa Yeo, of the Thomas Jefferson University School of Nursing and Jefferson Pancreas Tumor Registry, who was not involved in the new review, said in a statement.

Yeo had a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons showing that taking regular walks helped pancreatic and periampullary cancer patients beat fatigue.

And earlier this year, a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that exercise helped beat not just fatigue, but also depression, among women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer.

"Women who are physically active may also have more confidence in their own ability to continue with family-related, household, work-related, or social activities, which bring meaning and satisfaction to their lives," Jamie M. Stagl, M.S., doctoral student at the University of Miami, said in a statement. "This may lead to appraisals of lower fatigue, heightened quality of life, and less depression."

Exercise isn't the only thing that could beat fatigue -- research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed that taking high doses of ginseng could help cancer patients be less fatigued over a two-month period, compared to taking a placebo.

And another study conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers showed that acupuncture could play a role in relieving fatigue in cancer patients, Reuters reported. Researchers found that people who underwent acupuncture sessions for six weeks had lower depression, anxiety and fatigue than people who didn't undergo the procedures.