Lifestyle intervention improves exercise capacity and symptoms of fatigue in bowel cancer survivors: pilot RCT


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Liam Bourke1, Georgia Thompson2, Amanda Daley3, Ian Adam2, Andrew Shorthouse1, John Saxton1

1Sheffield Hallam University, UK, 2Northern General Hospital, UK, 3University of Birmingham, UK


Surgery and chemotherapy used in the treatment of bowel cancer are often associated with negative physical and psychological outcomes. Very few studies have investigated lifestyle interventions designed to ameliorate these side effects in bowel cancer survivors.

This study investigated the feasibility of a 12 week lifestyle intervention in bowel cancer survivors, 6-18 months post-treatment.

Following ethics approval, 18 bowel cancer patients (Dukes A-C) were randomised to either supervised exercise and dietary advice or to standard treatment only for 12 weeks. The exercise intervention consisted of 45 minutes of moderate aerobic and resistance exercise, 3 times per week. Diet advice consisted of a balenced diet information pack. Aerobic exercise tolerance was measured using the Bruce treadmill protocol. Functional capacity (30 s chair sit to stand test), self reported fatigue (FACT-F questionnaire) and neuromuscular efficiency (skeletal muscle electromyography during an isometric fatigue test) were also assessed. Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) was assessed to investigate changes in cardiovascular disease risk profile.

The lifestyle intervention elicited significant improvements in exercise tolerance (120 s vs. 50 s, P=0.041), functional capacity (+ 7 vs. + 1 repetition, P<0.001) fatigue (+4.8 vs +1.6, P=0.034) and WHR (-0.1 vs. 0.0 P=0.012). Neuromuscular efficiency showed an improvement trend, although this was not significant (+30% vs. -97%, P=0.295).

The improvements resulting from 12 weeks of exercise and diet advice suggests that lifestyle interventions could be beneficial for improving physical and psychological wellbeing in patients, after recovery from primary treatment for bowel cancer.