Effects of an aerobic exercise programme on fatigue for patients with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy

J Clin Nurs. 2015 Jan;24(1-2):202-11. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12672. Epub 2014 Sep 25.


Aims: This study was designed to evaluate the efficacy of an aerobic exercise programme on fatigue for Taiwanese breast cancer women under radiotherapy (RT).

Background: Cancer-related fatigue has been widely reported by patients undergoing radiotherapy as strongly and profoundly interfering with their quality of life. Evidence has shown that exercise can be beneficial to patients with breast cancer.

Design: A quasi-experimental design was used.

Methods: Patients with early-stage breast cancer scheduled for radiotherapy were invited to participate. The first 28 women who agreed to participate were assigned to the intervention group with a six-week mild- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise training programme during their radiotherapy. The next 30 women were assigned to the routine care control group without special exercise intervention. Fatigue was measured at pre-radiotherapy and weekly after starting radiotherapy for six weeks using the Taiwanese version of the Brief Fatigue Inventory.

Results: The mean age of these 47 women was 50·3 years (standard deviation = 9·5). The baseline fatigue severity for the intervention group and control group were 3·04 and 2·95 respectively; and the baseline fatigue interference for the intervention group and the control group were 3·48 and 3·55 respectively. The student t-test showed no group differences in baseline fatigue severity, fatigue interference, or haemoglobin levels. Multivariate analyses showed a significant group-by-time-interaction effect for fatigue severity and interference (p ≦ 0·001); the fatigue severity and interference decreased significantly over time for women in the intervention group but increased over time for women in the control group.

Conclusions: The mild- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programme reduces the fatigue of Taiwanese women with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy. The issues of cancer-related fatigue should also be discussed as they relate to other treatment modalities.

Relevance to clinical practice: Aerobic exercise intervention should be offered as an option for women with breast cancer to alleviate cancer-related fatigue when undergoing radiotherapy.

Keywords: aerobic exercise; breast cancer; fatigue; radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Exercise*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Taiwan
  • Treatment Outcome