Written By: Nicole Scheiman, OTR/L, MHS, DrOT, CLT-LANA, CES, CKTP, CEES-Advanced, CSST, CDCS

According to research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on April 2, 2020:

Achieving the minimum amount of recommended exercise per week, which is 2.5 hour, is beneficial during both the before and after periods of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Also, exercise is linked to improved survival and a decreased risk of recurrence.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that adults should engage in:

  • At least 5 hours to 5 hours of exercise at moderate intensity per week
  • Or 75 minutes to 5 hours of exercise at vigorous intensity per week

The HHS also recommends that adults complete strengthening exercises 2 or more days per week.

The study included 1,340 women who were diagnosed with stage I, stage II, or stage III breast cancer with a high risk of recurrence. All the women had surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy.

The women completed questionnaires on their exercise routines before being diagnosed and their current exercise routines. The questionnaires asked about:

  • What type of exercise the women completed
  • How long they exercised
  • How often they exercised

The women filled out the questionnaires four times:

  • When they enrolled in the study
  • While they were undergoing chemotherapy treatment
  • 1 year after completing breast cancer treatment
  • 2 years after completing breast cancer treatment

The researchers discovered that women who met the minimum federal exercise guidelines of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week, before and after being diagnosed with breast cancer, had:

  • A 55% lower risk of recurrence compared to women who did not achieve the minimum guidelines
  • A 68% lower risk of dying compared to women who did not achieve the minimum guidelines

Additionally, women who started exercising only after breast cancer treatment was completed got benefits from the physical activity:

  • They had a 46% lower risk of recurrence
  • 43% lower risk of dying compared to women who didn’t meet the minimum guidelines.

The results also found that a few hours of consistent, weekly exercise led to the same survival benefits as exercising for longer periods of time each week.

So, I ask you, “do your patients with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer exercise?


For more information, please see:


The research was published online on April 2, 2020, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. To read the abstract:  https://academic.oup.com/jnci/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jnci/djaa046/5814214?redirectedFrom=fulltext


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