Exercise and the gut microbiome: implications for supportive care in cancer

Nicolas H. Hart, Matthew P. Wallen, Morgan J. Farley, Darren Haywood, Alexander N. Boytar, Kate Secombe, Ria Joseph, Raymond J. Chan, Marlou Floor Kenkhuis, Laurien M. Buffart, Tina L. Skinner, Hannah R. Wardill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: Growing recognition of the gut microbiome as an influential modulator of cancer treatment efficacy and toxicity has led to the emergence of clinical interventions targeting the microbiome to enhance cancer and health outcomes. The highly modifiable nature of microbiota to endogenous, exogenous, and environmental inputs enables interventions to promote resilience of the gut microbiome that have rapid effects on host health, or response to cancer treatment. While diet, probiotics, and faecal microbiota transplant are primary avenues of therapy focused on restoring or protecting gut function in people undergoing cancer treatment, the role of physical activity and exercise has scarcely been examined in this population. Methods: A narrative review was conducted to explore the nexus between cancer care and the gut microbiome in the context of physical activity and exercise as a widely available and clinically effective supportive care strategy used by cancer survivors. Results: Exercise can facilitate a more diverse gut microbiome and functional metabolome in humans; however, most physical activity and exercise studies have been conducted in healthy or athletic populations, primarily using aerobic exercise modalities. A scarcity of exercise and microbiome studies in cancer exists. Conclusions: Exercise remains an attractive avenue to promote microbiome health in cancer survivors. Future research should elucidate the various influences of exercise modalities, intensities, frequencies, durations, and volumes to explore dose-response relationships between exercise and the gut microbiome among cancer survivors, as well as multifaceted approaches (such as diet and probiotics), and examine the influences of exercise on the gut microbiome and associated symptom burden prior to, during, and following cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number724
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Dec 2023


  • Aerobic
  • Immune system
  • Microbiota
  • Physical activity
  • Resistance
  • Supportive care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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