Exercise Reduces Heart Damage Related to Chemotherapy

Physical exercise may be a promising and effective treatment for patients with cancer during and after chemotherapy in order to counteract cardiotoxicity associated with treatment, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The study reviewed the beneficial effects of physical exercise in patients with cancer, particularly related to the prevention of cardiotoxicity before its clinical manifestation.

A multidisciplinary team should “prescribe” an exercise approach

The researchers suggest a tailored approach to exercise in these patients based on individual characteristics, drugs administered, personal history, and response to exercise. A multidisciplinary team (including oncologists, cardiologists, physical therapists, nurses, nutritionists, and psychologists) should be involved in “prescribing” the exercise plan. The appropriate “dose” of exercise should consider the intensity, type of training, and training volume.

“Endurance training is more effective for improving cardiovascular performance and reducing inflammation, but resistance training may be a better starting point for frail cancer patients,” said study author Flavio D’Ascenzi, MD, PhD, of the University of Siena in Italy, in a press release. “Other types of exercise, such as inspiratory muscle training, are safe and effective, particularly in those with thoracic cancer; therefore, the specific exercise should be chosen based on individual characteristics.”

Ongoing treatment is not a contraindication to exercise, but patients should consult their doctor before starting a new activity, the authors cautioned.

“Physical activity before, during, and after cancer treatment can counteract the negative effects of therapies on the cardiovascular system. In addition, it can relieve symptoms such as nausea and fatigue and help prevent unwanted changes in body weight,” Dr. D’Ascenzi concluded.