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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • chemotherapy;
  • exercise tests;
  • experiences;
  • interviews;
  • peak performance;
  • attitudes

Background: Over the past few years there has been a growing interest in the field of physical exercise in rehabilitation of cancer patients, leading to requirements for objective maximum physical capacity measurement (maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and one-repetition maximum (1RM)) to determine dose–response levels in different cancer diagnoses.

Aim: To explore the patients' experiences of maximum physical capacity testing while concurrently undergoing chemotherapy and participating in a 6-week, 9 h weekly multidimensional exercise program.

Design and method: Prospective, exploratory study using semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted prior to and at termination of the program. The study included 100 patients (18–65 years, median 42 years) with or without residual disease and with mixed diagnoses.

Results: Following the intervention, cancer patients felt significantly safer in performing maximum physical capacity tests as these motivated them through self-perceived competitiveness and set a standard that served to encourage peak performance.

Conclusion: The positive attitudes in this sample towards maximum physical capacity open the possibility of introducing physical testing early in the treatment process. However, the patients were self-referred and thus highly motivated and as such are not necessarily representative of the whole population of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy.