A recent study has shown that regular exercise after chemotherapy would boost the immune function by stimulating the T-cell activity. A T cell is a type of white blood cell that is of key importance to the immune system and is at the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors the body's immune response to specific pathogens. The T cells are like soldiers who search out and destroy the targeted invaders. Researchers have found that in about three to six months, the group who were assigned to exercise had more activated lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) compared to the group who were in the non-exercise group. Lymphocytes that were damaged or killed by chemotherapy were more quickly replaced by new and young lymphocytes in the exercise group compared to the group who were not exercising. The exercise group also scored higher on overall quality of life, and social well being. The exercise group also experienced less fatigue compared to the group who didn't exercise.
To avoid fatigue patients are often advised to rest and limit their daily activities. These recommendations might unintentionally perpetuate fatigue. By exercising, patients are able to keep their muscles in shape, which can make everyday tasks easier. Physical activity can also produce secondary benefits such as improved states of mind and mood, increased self-confidence, decreased depression, and higher levels of physical independence. To help overcome fatigue, cancer patients should be counseled to increase their level of exercise rather than the amount of rest in the recovery phase after high-dose chemotherapy.