Home-based physical activity interventions for breast cancer patients receiving primary therapy: a systematic review

  • Steven S. CoughlinEmail author
  • Lee S. Caplan
  • Valerie Williams



Breast cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer in women in the US, so it is important to provide these women with good therapies. However, there are adverse effects to these therapies. Physical activity plays an important role in alleviating these adverse effects of breast cancer therapy. However, the effectiveness of home-based physical activity interventions such as walking programs has not been detailed by prior reviews.


This article reviews articles published to date to examine whether home-based physical activity interventions are effective in improving physical activity and other outcomes among breast cancer patients who are undergoing primary therapy for the disease. The present review is based upon bibliographic searches in PubMed and CINAHL and relevant search terms. Articles published in English from 1980 through February 28, 2019 were identified. A total of 360 article citations were identified in PubMed and non-duplicates in CINAHL.


After screening the abstracts or full texts of these articles and reviewing the references of previous review articles, we found 15 studies that met the eligibility criteria. Four of the studies were pre/post-test trials, 10 were randomized controlled trials, and one study was an observational study.


Results from studies published to date indicate that among women receiving primary breast cancer therapy, home-based physical activity programs have positive effects on physical functioning and symptoms such as fatigue. Among women receiving adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy, home-based physical activity programs are effective in reducing symptoms and improving physical functioning. Additional studies are needed to clarify the impact of home-based physical therapy interventions on other outcomes including quality-of-life, bone mineral density, cognitive functioning, and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.


Breast cancer Physical activity Women 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the authors.

Informed consent

Not applicable.


  1. 1.
    Cancer Facts and Figures (2019) Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society 2019Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Schwartz A, de Heer HD, Bea JW (2017) Initiating exercise interventions to promote wellness in cancer patients and survivors. Oncology (Williston Park) 31:711–717Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Donmez AA, Kapucu S (2017) The effectiveness of a clinical and home-based physical activity program and simple lymphatic drainage in the prevention of breast cancer-related lymphedema: a prospective randomized controlled trial. Eur J Oncol Nurs 31:12–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Saarto T, Sievanen H, Kellokumpu-Lehtinen P et al (2012) Effect of supervised and home exercise training on bone mineral density among breast cancer patients. A 12-month randomized controlled trial. Osteoporos Int 23:1601–1612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gokal K, Munir F, Ahmed S et al (2018) Does walking protect against decline in cognitive functioning among breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy? Results from a small randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE 11:e0206874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wonders KY, Whisler G, Loy H et al (2013) Ten weeks of home-bsed exercise attenuates symptoms of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in breast cancer patients. Health Psychol Res 1:e28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gebruers N, Camberlin M, Thenissen F et al (2019) The effect of training interventions on physical performance, quality of life, and fatigue in patients receiving breast cancer treatment: a systematic review. Support Care Cancer 27:109–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Chan DN, Lui LY, So WK (2010) Effectiveness of exercise programmes on shoulder mobility and lymphedema after axillary lymph node dissection for breast cancer: systematic review. J Adv Nurs 66:255–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    De Groef A, Van Kempen M, Dieltjens E et al (2015) Effectiveness of postoperative physical therapy for upper-limb impairments after breast cancer treatment: a systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 96:1140–1153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mock V, Dow KH, Meares CJ et al (1997) Effects of exercise on fatigue, physical functioning, and emotional distress during radiation therapy for breast cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum 24:991–1000Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mock V, Pickett M, Ropka ME et al (2001) Fatigue and quality of life outcomes of exercise during cancer treatment. Cancer Pract 9(3):119–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mock V, Frangakis C, Davidson NE et al (2005) Exercise manages fatigue during breast cancer treatment: a randomized controlled trial. Psycho-Oncol 14:464–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Cadmus LA, Salovey P, Yu H et al (2009) Exercise and quality of life during and after treatment for breast cancer: results of two randomized controlled trials. Psychooncology 18:343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mustian KM, Peppone L, Darling TV et al (2009) A 4-week home-based aerobic and resistance exercise program during radiation therapy: a pilot randomized clinical trial. J Support Oncol 7:158–167Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Swenson KK, Nissen MJ, Henly SJ (2010) Physical activity in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer: adherence to a walking intervention. Oncol Nurs Forum 37:321–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ligibel JA, Partridge A, Giobbie-Hurder A et al (2010) Physical and psychological outcomes among women in a telephone-based exercise intervention during adjuvant therapy for early stage breast cancer. J Women’s Health 19:1553–1559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Vincent F, Labourey J-L, Leobon S et al (2013) Effects of a home-based walking training program on cardiorespiratory fitness in breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy: a pilot study. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 49:319–329Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Van Waart H, Stuiver MM, van Harten WH et al (2015) Effect of low-intensity physical activity and moderate- to high-intensity physical exercise during adjuvant chemotherapy on physical fitness, fatigue, and chemotherapy completion rates: results of the PACES randomized clinical trial. J Clin Oncol 33:1918–1927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cornette T, Vincent F, Mandigout S et al (2016) Effects of home-based exercise training on VO2 in breast cancer patients under adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy (SAPA): a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 52:223–232Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Nyrop KA, Deal AM, Choi SK et al (2018) Measuring and understanding adherence in a home-based exercise intervention during chemotherapy for early breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 168:43–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Gokal K, Wallis D, Ahmed S et al (2016) Effects of a self-managed home-based walking intervention on psychological health outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: a randomized controlled trial. Support Care Cancer 24:1139–1166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Furmaniak AC, Menig M, Markes MH (2016) Exercise for women receiving adjuvant therapy for breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 21:9Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cramer H, Lauche R, Klose P et al (2017) Yoga for improving health-related quality of life, mental health and cancer-related symptoms in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 3:1Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Schmitz KH, Troxel AB, Cheville A et al (2009) Physical Activity and Lymphedema (the PAL trial): assessing the safety of progressive strength training in breast cancer survivors. Contemp Clin Trials 30:233–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Population Health Sciences, Medical College of GeorgiaAugusta UniversityAugustaUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Public and Preventive HealthAugustaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Community Health and Preventive MedicineMorehouse School of MedicineAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Physical Therapy, College of Allied Health SciencesAugusta UniversityAugustaUSA

Personalised recommendations