Following cancer treatment haematological patients exhibit significant physical deconditioning and psychological distress resulting from the treatment and the disease. Exercise has been shown as a safe and effective method of rehabilitation in cancer patients, with the potential to reverse the deleterious effects following diagnosis. Our aim was to investigate the efficacy of an immediate or delayed exercise program on various patient outcomes post treatment.

Patients and Methods

Between July 2010 and December 2011, haematological cancer patients from Western Australia, who had completed chemotherapy treatment, were randomly assigned to immediate exercise (IEG; n=18) or a 12-week delayed exercise program (DEG; n=19). The exercise intervention incorporated aerobic and resistance training performed three times per week for 12-weeks. Patient rated outcomes (PRO) included cancer related fatigue (CRF), quality of life (QoL), psychological distress, exercise habit and behaviour. Physiological outcomes included cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, physical function and body composition.


Patient adherence to the exercise program was 85%, with patients completing, on average, 74 min per week of aerobic exercise and strength training intensity that ranged from 51-87% of maximum weight. A significant time by group interaction (p<0.05) was seen for PRO and physiological outcomes including CRF (p=0.01), QoL (p≤0.001), aerobic fitness (p≤0.001) and muscle strength (p≤0.001). Follow-up t-tests showed a significant difference in change between the IEG and DEG from weeks 0-12 (p≤0.001 to p=0.046), and significant differences between groups from weeks 12-24 (p≤0.001 to p=0.050), with no significant differences between groups at baseline or final assessment on any variables.


A 12-week exercise program, whether commenced immediately post treatment or delayed by 12-weeks, resulted in significant statistical (p≤0.05) and clinical improvements in PRO including QoL and CRF, and physiological outcomes, including aerobic fitness, in haematological cancer patients without any exacerbation of symptoms.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.