Exercise and Weight Gain in Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy


  • This research was supported in part by grants from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command under DAMD17-96-1-6171, the National Institutes of Health/NINR (grant F31 NR07159), and the Oncology Nursing Foundation.

Address for correspondence: Anna L. Schwartz, PhD, ARNP, Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Box 357266, Seattle, WA 98195.


Purpose: Weight gain is a common side effect for women receiving adjuvant chemotherapy and may have negative long-term implications for survival. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of aerobic exercise on weight gain in women with breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy.

description of Study: Seventy-eight women who had recently received a diagnosis of breast cancer and who were beginning adjuvant chemotherapy were enrolled in a home-based exercise study during the first four cycles of chemotherapy. Weight change, body mass index, anorexia, nausea, fatigue, caloric expenditure during exercise, and functional ability were recorded.

Results: Women who adhered to the exercise program maintained their body weight, while nonexercisers steadily gained weight (P < .05). There were no differences in incidence or intensity of nausea or anorexia between the exercisers and nonexercisers. Women who exercised over the four cycles of chemotherapy improved their functional ability (mean 23%) compared to the nonexercisers who showed significant declines in functional ability (mean −15%).

clinical Implications: Exercise may be an effective intervention to minimize weight gain in women with breast cancer who are receiving adjuvant chemotherapy. Preventing weight gain in these patients may be important in preventing recurrent disease and other comorbidities associated with excess weight.