Husebo, A.M., Dyrstad, S.M., Mjaaland, I., Soreide, J.A., & Bru, E. (2014). Effects of scheduled exercise on cancer-related fatigue in women with early breast cancer. The Scientific World Journal, 2014, 271828. 

DOI Link

Study Purpose

To compare the effects of a scheduled, home-based exercise intervention to the effects of advising patients to exercise on fatigue, physical fitness, and physical activity level

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process

Patients who had surgical treatment and were receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer were randomly assigned to the scheduled exercise or control comparison groups. The intervention combined resistance and aerobic exercise with resistance bands and strength training three times per week along with 30 minutes of brisk walking daily. Those in the experimental group received motivational phone calls every two weeks. Patients in the control group were advised to continue their regular activity levels and had one follow-up phone call. Study measures were obtained at baseline, prior to chemotherapy, 8–24 weeks at the end of chemotherapy, and about six months after completing chemotherapy.

Sample Characteristics

  • N = 54
  • MEAN AGE = 52.2 years (SD = 9.3 years)
  • FEMALES: 100%
  • KEY DISEASE CHARACTERISTICS: 88.4% of patients had stage I or II disease; 80.6% had college-level education;  81% were living with a partner, and about one half were employed full or part-time.


  • SITE: Single-site  
  • SETTING TYPE: Outpatient  
  • LOCATION: Norway

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications

  • PHASE OF CARE: Multiple phases of care

Study Design

Randomized controlled trial (RCT)

Measurement Instruments/Methods

  • Schwartz Cancer Fatigue Scale (SCFS-6)
  • International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ)
  • Six-Minute Walk Test (6MWT)
  • Exercise diary


Fatigue scores increased significantly from baseline to the end of chemotherapy for all patients (p = .003) with no difference between groups. Fatigue returned to baseline levels after the end of chemotherapy with no difference between groups. A similar pattern was shown for all patients in physical fitness. There were no differences between groups in mean levels of physical activity per week, though there was a slight trend toward more exercise in the intervention group.


There were no additional effects of a scheduled home exercise program to reduce fatigue compared to individuals who were simply encouraged to maintain appropriate exercise levels.


  • Small sample (< 100)
  • Risk of bias (no blinding)
  • Risk of bias (no appropriate attentional control condition)
  • Subject withdrawals ≥ 10%

Nursing Implications

Study findings show a pattern of fatigue such that fatigue increases significantly during chemotherapy and then declines after the end of treatment. Both groups of patients in this study performed exercise at general recommended levels, which likely accounts for the lack of differences in fatigue found. These results suggest that patients do not necessarily need to have scheduled approaches to exercise, and that encouraging patients to maintain at least moderate exercise levels can be effective. Nurses can encourage patients to maintain exercise and choose approaches that they prefer in order to maintain motivation for regular activity.