PURPOSE: To describe changes in physical performance and patient-reported outcomes in cancer survivors who participated in an exercise program as part of usual-care multidisciplinary rehabilitation and the influence of training adaptations during the coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
METHODS: In an observational cohort study, cancer survivors underwent usual-care multidisciplinary rehabilitation including a 10-week exercise program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the exercise program was adapted with reduced training time and frequency. Mean changes and 95% confidence intervals in physical performance (peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), peak work rate during a steep ramp test (SRT-WRpeak), 6-min walking distance, muscle strength) and patient-reported outcomes (health-related quality of life, fatigue, anxiety, and depression) were assessed between the start and the end of the exercise program. Linear regression analysis, adjusting for baseline levels of outcomes, was used to investigate differences in changes in outcomes between participants who underwent the original and the adapted program.
RESULTS: All outcomes statistically significantly improved over time, regardless of adaptations in the exercise program. VO2peak increased with 9.6% and 7.7% in the original and adapted program, respectively. Significant smaller improvements were observed in SRT-WRpeak (- 3.9%) and upper body muscle strength (- 10.8%) after participation in the adapted compared to the original program. No significant between-group differences were observed for other outcomes.
CONCLUSION: Physical performance and patient-reported outcomes statistically and clinically significantly improved in cancer survivors who participated in an exercise program as part of usual-care multidisciplinary rehabilitation. Improvements of performance outcomes were smaller since the training adaptations, though only significant for SRT-WRpeak and upper body strength.