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Exercise May Help After Breast Cancer Chemo

Better Immune Function Seen in Small Study of Patients

Exercise Test continued...

The workouts were designed to allow the women to work out at the research center or at home during the second half of the study, says Mastro. Most women stuck with their trainers at the center; the rest kept exercise diaries and checked in with their trainer by phone or in weekly visits to the center.

Many women said they had rarely if ever exercised before their breast cancer diagnosis. Those who said they had previously exercised favored walking. More than three quarters of the exercise group finished the program, says the news release.

Better Immune Results Seen

The exercise group reaped aerobic and muscular benefits, as you might expect. But those weren't the only benefits.

Compared with the other women in the study, the women in the exercise group also boosted their number of activated T cells, made more lymphocytes, and lowered their levels of an inflammatory marker. That data came from blood tests done after chemotherapy and at the study's midpoint and end.

It's always a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, even if your body hasn't been through anything as grueling as chemo. However, Mastro says that when she and her colleagues were recruiting women for the study, some said their doctors had told them not to exercise after therapy.

Similar Findings

Improvements in T cells with post-chemo exercise were also recently reported by Canadian researchers. They say they saw the benefit in a small group of postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who worked out on stationary bikes three times per week for 15 weeks.

Those findings were reported in April's Journal of Applied Physiology. The same experiment was also the basis for a report in May's Journal of Clinical Oncology. In that paper, the researchers highlighted better quality of life and cardiopulmonary function for the breast cancer survivors who exercised.

Mastro says that although her study's program included resistance training, she considers the two studies to be complementary.

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