Aquatic Exercise for Cancer-Related Fatigue

The Effectiveness of a Deep Water Aquatic Exercise Program in Cancer-Related Fatigue Among Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial

By Cantarero-Villanueva Irene and Fernández-Lao Carolina – Physical Therapy Department, University of Granada, Spain; Cuesta-Vargas Antonio I. – Physical Therapy Department, University of Malaga, Spain; Del Moral-Avila Rosario – Radiotherapy Oncology Unit, Hospital Virgen de las Nieves, Granada, Spain; Fernández-de-las-Peñas C César  – Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy Department, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain, September 2012.

Cancer-related fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer and cancer treatment. Research suggests that anywhere between 70% and 100% of cancer patients getting treatment have fatigue, and about 30% to 50% of cancer survivors have said that their fatigue lasts for months or even years after they finish treatment.

This controlled trial investigate the effectiveness of aquatic exercise program on cancer-related fatigue, physical and psychological outcomes among breast cancer survivors.

Sixty-eight breast cancer survivors were randomly divided into two groups:

  1. Aquatic exercise group
  2. Control group

The aquatic exercise group attended 8 weeks (3 times a week) aquatic exercise program. Participators received a total of 24 aquatic exercises sessions (60 minutes each) in deep heated swimming pool. The 60 minutes aquatic exercises session started with warm-up exercises (10 minutes), continued with aerobic and endurance exercises (40 minutes) and ended with cool-down exercises (10 minutes).

The control group followed the oncologist’s recommendations in relation to a healthy lifestyle.

Measurements of fatigue (Piper Fatigue Scale), mood state (Profile of Mood States), abdominal strength (trunk curl static endurance test), and leg strength (multiple sit-to-stand test) were collected before and after intervention, as well as follow-ups six month after intervention.

Immediately after ending the 8 weeks program, the aquatic exercise group showed higher scores in total fatigue (d=.87; 95% confidence interval, .48–1.26), trunk curl endurance (d=.92; 95% confidence interval, 1.97–3.83) and leg strength (d=1.10; .55–2.76), but insignificant scores in vigor, confusion, and disturbance of mood (d<.25).

During follow-ups (6-month after intervention), the aquatic exercise group maintained the positive scores of fatigue, multiple sit-to-stand test, and trunk curl static endurance (.25>d>.90). The scores of fatigue-severity dimension and mood state (d<.25) were insignificant.

The results of this study indicate the positive effects of an aquatic exercise program preformed in deep water to improve cancer-related fatigue and strength among breast cancer survivors.

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