Mind-Body Fitness Classes May Reduce Unplanned Hospitalizations, Urgent Care Visits During Cancer Care

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Participation in virtual mind-body fitness classes may be effective at reducing hospitalizations, urgent care visits, and the length of hospital stays among patients with cancer by about 50%, according to new findings presented by Mao et al at the 2023 ASCO Quality Care Symposium (Abstract 473).


Although patients with cancer are encouraged to exercise, many of them may have trouble finding exercise classes that meet their needs during treatment or that they can participate in from home.

“Evidence shows that fitness, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and music therapy can improve common symptoms of cancer treatment such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. However, there is no research examining how to make these activities accessible to patients with cancer from the comfort of their homes. Further, no research has evaluated whether practicing these therapies from home can reduce a patient’s likelihood of being admitted to the hospital,” explained lead study author Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, Chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

Study Methods and Results

In the new international basket study, 200 patients who reported moderate or greater fatigue while receiving active cancer treatment and had breast cancer (36.5%), thoracic cancer (24.5%), gynecologic cancer (21.5%), head/neck cancer (12.5%), or melanoma (5%) were randomized to participate in the Integrative Medicine at Home (IM@HOME) weekly virtual live mind-body fitness classes or to receive enhanced usual care—which consisted of standard of care plus access to prerecorded online meditation resources. The patients were a median age of 59.9 years; 90.5% of them were female and 9.5% of them were male; and 77.5%, 9%, 7%, and 89% of them identified as White, Black, Asian, and non-Hispanic, respectively.  

Researchers discovered that the patients in the IM@HOME group were less likely to be hospitalized (5.1% vs 13.9%) and spent fewer days in the hospital (5.4 vs 9.4) compared with those in the enhanced usual care group. 

Additionally, while the percentage of patients who needed to visit urgent care was similar between both groups—9.1% in the IM@HOME group vs 11.9% in the enhanced usual care group—the number of urgent care visits per patient was almost 50% less in those who participated in the IM@HOME classes compared with those who received enhanced usual care. 

The researchers also reported that the patients in the IM@HOME group had significantly less fatigue, psychological distress, and physical symptoms than those in the enhanced usual care group. 

Next Steps  

The researchers are currently planning trials to determine if the IM@HOME intervention can improve patients’ adherence to cancer treatment, health-care utilization, and survival in specific tumor types. They also plan to replicate these results in trials of larger sample sizes and further study how this type of intervention can improve patient and health-system outcomes.  

“This trial demonstrated that a virtual mind-body fitness program can be delivered seamlessly for patients with cancer and reduce complications from treatment. Future research is needed to evaluate whether this type of program can be implemented at larger practices,” concluded Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, FASCO, of ASCO, who was not involved in the study. 

Disclosure: The research in this study was funded by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Institutes of Health. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.