Physical activity and cancer survivorship

David O. Garcia, Cynthia A. Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


There has been an increase in the cancer survivor population in the United States over the past several decades primarily due to improvements in early detection of first malignancies and effective treatment modalities. A wealth of evidence has demonstrated that regular physical activity is associated with a lower risk of death, all-cause mortality, cancer recurrence, and several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, common comorbid conditions in people who have survived cancer. Physical activity also is a central component of weight management. Methods: This review summarizes the current physical activity recommendations and the evidence linking physical activity to improvements in weight management, physiological effects, and psychological health outcomes for cancer survivors. Results: The available literature suggests physical activity is safe and is positively associated with weight management, cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance, quality of life, fatigue, and other psychosocial factors in cancer survivors. Yet relationships related to specific cancer diagnoses, treatments, and underlying cardiometabolic mechanisms associated with survival have not been thoroughly examined in randomized controlled trials. Furthermore, factors that influence adherence to physical activity behaviors must be identified to develop effective exercise programs. The use of objective measures of physical activity and the standardization of reporting outcome measures within intervention trials are needed to complement this effort. Conclusions: Healthcare providers should consider individual differences among cancer survivors and tailor physical activity programs to meet the individual needs of the patient to assist in the adoption and maintenance of a physically active lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)768-779
Number of pages12
JournalNutrition in Clinical Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 20 2014


  • cancer
  • exercise
  • neoplasms
  • obesity
  • survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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