Exercise Transforms Fatigue During Chemo

Original article

Transforming the nature of fatigue through exercise: qualitative findings from a multidimensional exercise programme in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy

L. ADAMSEN, msc soc., phd, rn, associate professor1, J. MIDTGAARD, msc psych., phd-student1, C. ANDERSEN, research nurse2, M. QUIST, project physiotherapist1, T. MOELLER, research nurse3 & M. ROERTH, professor, md2

The objective of this study was to explore the nature of fatigue in cancer patients with advanced stages of disease undergoing chemotherapy and concurrently participating in a 6-week multidimensional exercise programme (physical exercise, relaxation, massage and body-awareness training).

Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 23 patients between 18 and 65 years of age prior to, during, and at termination of the programme.

The findings endorsed that physical debilitation, fatigue, and uncertainty of physical capacity were the patients' motivation for participation.

Throughout the programme the patients experienced exercise-induced fatigue, which they associated with a sense of increased physical strength, improvement in energy and physical well-being.

This positive sense of fatigue can be seen as a contrast to the negative chemotherapy-induced fatigue, which is characterized by physical discomfort and uncontrollable exhaustion. The patients learned to manoeuvre through periods of intense fatigue by using exercise as a strategy to adjust their sense of physical debilitation.

Visibility of fatigue's qualitative aspects is necessary if patients are to be encouraged to stay active and to set realistic goals. The transformation process of fatigue identified in this study supports the theory of exercise as a beneficial intervention strategy in the treatment of cancer-related fatigue.

European Journal of Cancer Care Volume 13 Issue 4 Page 362 - September 2004 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2354.2004.00502.x

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