The prescription or proscription of exercise in colorectal cancer care

Justin C. Brown, Kathryn H. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Purpose: Clinical guidelines recommend that oncologists prescribe exercise to their patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). However, 84% of oncologists do not prescribe exercise, citing concerns of safety and feasibility. Data are inadequate regarding the proportion of CRC survivors that could be safely prescribed with the dose of exercise recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Cancer Society (ACS), or National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) in an unsupervised setting.

Methods: We reviewed published guidelines for exercise prescription among cancer survivors and extracted health factors that may necessitate referral to trained personnel (physical therapist or exercise professional) for an individualized exercise program or supervision of exercise as recommended by the ACSM/ACS/NCCN. We applied these health factors to a cohort of nonmetastatic CRC survivors 6 months after completing curative care. The primary outcome was the proportion of CRC survivors to whom oncologists could prescribe unsupervised exercise at the dose recommended by the ACSM/ACS/NCCN.

Results: Among 351 CRC survivors, 6 months after curative care, 21%-42% of patients could be prescribed with the dose of exercise recommended by the ACSM/ACS/NCCN. Estimates varied as a function of the inclusion or exclusion of several prevalent comorbid health conditions including hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and hyperlipidemia.

Conclusions: Our data are consistent with the clinical observation that a large proportion of CRC survivors may be unable to participate in unsupervised exercise 6 months after curative care. These data underscore the need for continued research to clarify the safety and feasibility of prescribing exercise to CRC survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2202-2209
Number of pages8
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 10 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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