Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

The effects of exercise on physiological and psychological variables in cancer patients following clinical treatment

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  • The treatment of certain types of cancers brings with it serious physiological and psychological side effects in cancer survivors, including: decreased aerobic capacity, muscle wasting, body composition changes, fatigue, and a diminished overall quality of life. Exercise may directly influence the physiological side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and also improve psychological function. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of aerobic exercise on physiological and psychological function in patients rehabilitating from cancer treatment. A second purpose was to evaluate the differential effects of low and moderate intensity exercise on these variables. Eighteen survivors of breast or colon cancer (15 female and 3 male, 40-65 years of age) served as subjects. The subjects were matched by aerobic capacity and scores on a Qua1ity of Life questionnaire, and then randomly assigned to a control, low (25-35% heart rate reserve (HRR)) or a moderate (40-50% HRR) intensity exercise group. The exercise groups performed lower body aerobic exercise three times a week for ten weeks. Subject attendance for the exercise sessions was 95%. Following the exercise training, there were no statistically significant differences between the two exercise groups on any of the physiological variables. Therefore the exercise groups were combined into one group for the final analysis. The results revealed statistically significant increases in aerobic capacity (p<.001), and lower body flexibility (p=.027), a significant decrease in body fat (p<.001), and a significant increase in Quality of Life (p<.001) and a measure of energy (p=.038) in the exercise group when compared to the control group. Measures of fatigue and anxiety significantly decreased (p=.029, p=.011 respectively) in the exercise group between the pre and post-study measurements, but were not significantly different from controls (p=.160, p=.373 respectively). These results indicate that low and moderate intensity aerobic exercise programs were equally effective in improving physiological and psychological function in this population of cancer survivors. Aerobic exercise appears to be a valuable and well-tolerated component of the cancer rehabilitation process.
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