Women's Health

Exercise can reduce fatigue in breast cancer patients undergoing radiation

Research we’re watching

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

photo of a woman who has undergone breast cancer treatment lifting hand weightsEngaging in regular exercise may improve fatigue, along with physical and emotional well-being, among women undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer, a new study suggests. The study, published online Oct. 14, 2022, by the journal Breast Cancer, involved 89 women ages 32 through 78. When starting radiation therapy — known to lead to fatigue and other burdensome side effects — 43 women were randomly chosen to complete a 12-week, home-based exercise program; the other 46 did not participate in the program. Patients in the exercise group did one or two strength-training sessions weekly, along with 30 to 40 total minutes of aerobic exercise such as brisk walking or cycling.

Researchers used questionnaires to assess the women’s fatigue levels and other quality-of-life measures at four intervals: six weeks and 12 weeks after the study’s start, as well as six months and one year after radiation treatment ended. Women in the exercise group reported significantly less fatigue than their peers while undergoing radiation treatment. Both groups reported improved emotional and physical well-being six months and one year after radiation ended, but only those in the exercise group experienced those improvements as early as six weeks after the study began.

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About the Author

photo of Maureen Salamon

Maureen Salamon, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Maureen Salamon is executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later covered health and medicine for a wide variety of websites, magazines, and hospitals. Her work has … See Full Bio
View all posts by Maureen Salamon

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