Exercise improves functional capacity and lean body mass in patients with gastrointestinal cancer during chemotherapy: a single-blind RCT

  • Katrin StuecherEmail author
  • Claus Bolling
  • Lutz Vogt
  • Daniel Niederer
  • Katharina Schmidt
  • Axel Dignaß
  • Winfried Banzer
Original Article



Although growing evidence underlines the benefits of physical activity as supportive intervention for cancer patients, sparse data are available for exercise in patients with advanced disease stages, in particular for gastrointestinal cancer (GIC) patients who experience specific disease-associated limitations. Thus, the aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of home-based moderate intensity exercise on functional capacity, activities of daily living (ADL) and body composition in patients with advanced GIC during first-line chemotherapy.


Participants (GIC, UICC III-IV; n = 44) were randomly assigned to home-based physical activity programme of 150 min moderate walking per week or a control group (CG). Functional status (SPPB: gait speed, balance, lower extremity muscle strength), postural sway, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, nutritional state (Mini Nutritional Assessment, MNA) and lean body mass were assessed according to established recommendations. All tests were performed before chemotherapy (T0), after two chemotherapy cycles (T1) and after 12 weeks (T2).


SPPB changes from T1 to T2 differed between groups with a comparably greater decrease in the CG (p < .05), but no changes or group differences over the whole study period (T0 to T2) were found. Exercise improved postural sway (T0 to T1; T0 toT2) and lean body mass (T1 to T2; T0 to T2) compared to the control group (p < .05). Gait speed, peripheral neuropathy and strength did not differ between groups (p > .05).


Our results indicate that a home-based physical activity improves postural sway and body composition and might stabilize functional capacity in patients with advanced GIC during chemotherapy. Although the other outcomes did not differ between groups, aforementioned effects might contribute to a maintenance of independency in ADL and a better treatment tolerance and thus enhance patients’ quality of life.


Gastrointestinal cancer Functional capacity Physical activity Activities of daily living Chemotherapy Advanced cancer 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sports MedicineGoethe-University FrankfurtFrankfurt/MainGermany
  2. 2.Head Department of Medicine IMarkus HospitalFrankfurt/MainGermany
  3. 3.Clinic of Oncology and HematologyKrankenhaus NordwestFrankfurtGermany

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