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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 63-70

Exercise as a Time-conditioning Effector in Chronic Disease: a Complementary Treatment Strategy

Laboratory of Metabolism, Department of Histology and Embryology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Received 17 December 2003; Accepted 29 February 2004

Copyright © 2004 Luis F. B. P. Costa Rosa. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Exercise has been widely believed to be a preventive and therapeutic aid in the treatment of various pathophysiological conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. A common problem associated with such pathologies is cachexia, characterized by progressive weight loss and depletion of lean and fat body mass, and is linked to poor prognosis. As this syndrome comprises changes in many physiological systems, it is tempting to assume that the modulation of the psychoneuroimmunoendocrine axis could attenuate or even prevent cachexia progression in cancer patients. Cancer cachexia is characterized by a disruption in the rhythmic secretion of melatonin, an important time-conditioning effector. This hormone, secreted by the pineal gland, transmits circadian and seasonal information to all organs and cells of the body, synchronizing the organism with the photoperiod. Considering that exercise modulates the immune response through at least two different mechanisms—metabolic and neuroendocrine—we propose that the adoption of a regular exercise program as a complementary strategy in the treatment of cancer patients, with the exercise bouts regularly performed at the same time of the day, will ameliorate cachexia symptoms and increase survival and quality of life.