Adding high-intensity interval training to conventional training modalities: optimizing health-related outcomes during chemotherapy for breast cancer: the OptiTrain randomized controlled trial

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 Feb;168(1):79-93. doi: 10.1007/s10549-017-4571-3. Epub 2017 Nov 14.


Purpose: Exercise training is an effective and safe way to counteract cancer-related fatigue (CRF) and to improve health-related quality of life (HRQoL). High-intensity interval training has proven beneficial for the health of clinical populations. The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to compare the effects of resistance and high-intensity interval training (RT-HIIT), and moderate-intensity aerobic and high-intensity interval training (AT-HIIT) to usual care (UC) in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. The primary endpoint was CRF and the secondary endpoints were HRQoL and cancer treatment-related symptoms.

Methods: Two hundred and forty women planned to undergo chemotherapy were randomized to supervised RT-HIIT, AT-HIIT, or UC. Measurements were performed at baseline and at 16 weeks. Questionnaires included Piper Fatigue Scale, EORTC-QLQ-C30, and Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale.

Results: The RT-HIIT group was superior to UC for CRF: total CRF (p = 0.02), behavior/daily life (p = 0.01), and sensory/physical (p = 0.03) CRF. Role functioning significantly improved while cognitive functioning was unchanged for RT-HIIT compared to declines shown in the UC group (p = 0.04). AT-HIIT significantly improved emotional functioning versus UC (p = 0.01) and was superior to UC for pain symptoms (p = 0.03). RT-HIIT reported a reduced symptom burden, while AT-HIIT remained stable compared to deteriorations shown by UC (p < 0.01). Only RT-HIIT was superior to UC for total symptoms (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: 16 weeks of resistance and HIIT was effective in preventing increases in CRF and in reducing symptom burden for patients during chemotherapy for breast cancer. These findings add to a growing body of evidence supporting the inclusion of structured exercise prescriptions, including HIIT, as a vital component of cancer rehabilitation.

Trial registration: Registration Number: NCT02522260.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Chemotherapy; Concurrent training; Health-related quality of life; High-intensity interval training; Symptom burden.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents

Associated data