Exercise with Wii fights fatigue after cancer

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Using a video game system to get exercise at home can help patients overcome one of cancer’s most common and cumbersome symptoms: severe, persistent fatigue.

Researchers had previously shown the Nintendo Wii system was a safe and effective source of light-intensity exercise for patients with lung cancer in the first six weeks after surgery.

A new small-scale study, published in the journal Cancer Nursing, shows that all the patients were willing to continue the rehab another 10 weeks, their fatigue decreased over time, and they felt increasingly confident in their ability to perform daily tasks.


“We’ve ignored this population, and they need our help,” says Amy Hoffman, assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University. “Our preliminary results have us excited about the future for rehabilitating a population that people may have thought was too sick to exercise.”

That’s important, because no formal guidelines exist for rehabilitating patients following lung cancer surgery.

“This is a key step toward establishing a clear rehab plan,” Hoffman says. “The Wii has made exercise fun for patients, which is important since many have multiple symptoms that normally would keep them from even considering exercise. Having the Wii available in their homes has made it very accessible so they can exercise whenever they like and at their own pace.”

It may sound like a minor symptom of a serious disease, but cancer-related fatigue is far more than being tired. Patients say it’s an overwhelming feeling of full-body exhaustion that disrupts daily life and doesn’t go away after a good night’s sleep.

“It’s one of the worst symptoms of cancer,” Hoffman says. “Their fatigue exacerbates other symptoms such as pain, distress, shortness of breath, and sleep disturbance while also affecting their mood, walking ability, relations with other people and enjoyment of life.”

The study, which had seven patients, will need to be repeated on a larger scale before researchers can draw clear conclusions about the program’s success.

However, it’s encouraging that it was effective for patients who not only had undergone surgery, but who also were receiving radiation or chemotherapy and had on average six other chronic conditions such as chronic lung disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis, Hoffman says.

“We’ve shown that it’s a safe and feasible rehabilitation plan. We can recruit and retain patients, and they like it.”

Source: Michigan State University