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Short-term pre-operative high-intensity interval training does not improve fitness of colorectal cancer patients

Boereboom, Catherine L.; Blackwell, James E.M.; Williams, John P.; Phillips, Bethan E.; Lund, Jonathan N.


Catherine L. Boereboom

James E.M. Blackwell

Clinical Associate Professor

Professor of Translational Physiology


Background: Preoperative cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in colorectal cancer patients has been shown to affect postoperative outcomes. The aim of this study was to test the feasibility of high-intensity interval training (HIT) for improving fitness in preoperative colorectal cancer (CRC) patients within the 31-day cancer waiting time targets imposed in the UK.

Methods: Eighteen CRC patients (13 males, mean age: 67 years (range 52-77years) participated in supervised HIT on cycle ergometers 3 or 4 times each week prior to surgery. Exercise intensity during 5x1-minute HIT intervals (interspersed with 90-seconds recovery) was 100-120% maximum wattage achieved at a baseline cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). CPET before and after HIT was used to assess CRF.

Results: Patients completed a mean of 8 HIT sessions (range 6-14) over 19 days (SD 7). There was no significant increase in VO2 peak (23.9±7.0 vs. 24.2±7.8 ml/kg/min (mean±SD), p=0.58) or anaerobic threshold (AT: 14.0±3.4 vs. 14.5±4.5 ml/kg/min, p=0.50) after HIT. There was a significant reduction in resting systolic blood pressure (152±19 vs. 142±19 mmHg, p=0.0005) and heart rate at submaximal intensities after HIT.

Conclusions: A pragmatic HIT exercise program did not improve the preoperative fitness of CRC patients within the 31-day window available in the UK to meet cancer surgical waiting time targets.


Boereboom, C. L., Blackwell, J. E., Williams, J. P., Phillips, B. E., & Lund, J. N. (2019). Short-term pre-operative high-intensity interval training does not improve fitness of colorectal cancer patients. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 29(9), 1383-1391.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 25, 2019
Online Publication Date May 22, 2019
Publication Date 2019-09
Deposit Date May 22, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 23, 2020
Journal Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Print ISSN 0905-7188
Electronic ISSN 1600-0838
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 9
Pages 1383-1391
Keywords Colorectal neoplasms; Exercise; Preoperative therapy; Surgery
Public URL
Publisher URL


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