Yang, T.Y., Chen, M.L., & Li, C.C. (2015). Effects of an aerobic exercise programme on fatigue for patients with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24, 202–211. 

DOI Link

Study Purpose

To evaluate the efficacy of an aerobic exercise program for fatigue in women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process

Patients were recruited to an intervention group and to a comparison group. The intervention consisted of aerobic exercise using a treadmill with mild to moderate intensity defined as 40%–65% of maximum heart rate. Exercise was done for 20–30 minutes three days per week during six weeks of radiation therapy. Fatigue was assessed prior to radiation therapy and then weekly for six weeks.

Sample Characteristics

  • N = 47
  • MEAN AGE = 50.3 years (SD = 9.5 years)
  • FEMALES: 100%
  • KEY DISEASE CHARACTERISTICS: All patients had breast cancer. Women receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy were not included.
  • OTHER KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: The majority were married and not working outside the home.


  • SITE: Single site  
  • SETTING TYPE: Outpatient  
  • LOCATION: Taiwan

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications

  • PHASE OF CARE: Active antitumor treatment

Study Design

Two-group, nonrandomized, quasi-experimental study

Measurement Instruments/Methods

  • Taiwanese Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI)
  • Rate of perceived exertion (Borg scale)


Fatigue trends over time showed a consistent decline in the intervention group and an increase over time in the comparison group. With the intervention, the change in fatigue was -1.09 (p < 0.0001), and in the control group, fatigue increased by 1.45 points by week 6 (p = 0.002). The same pattern was shown for fatigue interference with daily life measures.


The findings of this study suggest that aerobic exercise can reduce and prevent fatigue during radiation therapy. The study's design limits its generalizability and the strength of these findings.


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

Nursing Implications

This study adds to the body of evidence regarding the efficacy of exercise to combat fatigue during active cancer treatment. This study was conducted during radiation therapy, showing that aerobic exercise can be helpful during this treatment.