Prehabilitation exercise therapy for cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Christina M. Michael, Eric J. Lehrer, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Nicholas G. Zaorsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of prehabilitation exercise intervention with respect to (1) acceptability, feasibility, and safety; and (2) physical function, measured by 6-minute-walk test (6MWT). Data sources: PRISMA guidelines were used to systematically search PubMed, Embase, and CINAHL databases evaluating prehabilitation exercise interventions. Study selection: The inclusion criteria were studies investigating patients who underwent surgery for their cancer and underwent prehabilitation exercise. Data extraction and synthesis: Guidelines were applied by independent extraction by multiple observers. Data were pooled using a random-effects model. Main outcome(s) and measure(s): Acceptability, feasibility, and safety rates were calculated. 6MWT (maximum distance a person can walk at their own pace on a hard, flat surface, measured in meters, with longer distance indicative of better performance status) was compared using two arms using the DerSimonian and Laird method. Results: Objective 1. Across 21 studies included in this review, 1564 patients were enrolled, 1371 (87.7%) accepted the trial; of 1371, 1230 (89.7% feasibility) completed the intervention. There was no grade 3+ toxicities. Objective 2. Meta-analysis of five studies demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in 6MWT distance postoperatively in the control group (mean difference = +27.9 m; 95% confidence interval (CI): 9.3; 46.6) and a significant improvement postoperatively in the prehabilitation group (mean difference = −24.1 m; 95% CI: −45.7; −2.6). Meta-analysis demonstrated improvements in 6MWT distance 4–8 weeks postoperatively in the prehabilitation group compared to the control group (mean difference = −58.0 m, 95% CI: −92.8; −23.3). Conclusions and relevance: Prehabilitation exercise for cancer patients undergoing surgery was found to be safe, acceptable, and feasible with a statistically significant improvement in the 6MWT, indicating that prehabilitation can improve postoperative functional capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4195-4205
Number of pages11
JournalCancer medicine
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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