Combined Aerobic and Resistance Exercise in Breast Cancer Survivors Receiving Chemotherapy (CARE)


Early detection and improved treatments for breast cancer have resulted in many women living longer lives. Unfortunately, surviving breast cancer usually means enduring intense and prolonged chemotherapy treatments that may reduce functioning and quality of life (QoL). Moreover, many of the current QoL interventions for breast cancer survivors (e.g., education, psychotherapy) are designed primarily to help with the emotional and social aspects of QoL rather than the physical and functional problems experienced by breast cancer survivors.

Recent research has shown that exercise interventions for breast cancer survivors are beneficial but the focus has been mainly on aerobic exercise. Many breast cancer survivors, however, report problems with muscular strength that affect activities of daily living and QoL. In the general literature, there has been an increased recognition that musculoskeletal strength is critical to health and QoL, especially in older women.

The proposed study will be the first to test the effects of adding a weight training program to aerobic exercise in breast cancer survivors receiving chemotherapy.

Project Summary

Breast cancer and its treatments can take a toll on the physical and functional well-being of cancer survivors. There are few interventions that can help cancer survivors maintain and recover their physical strength and stamina.

Dr. Courneya's laboratory focuses on developing and testing different exercise interventions that may help cancer survivors stay strong during and after treatments.

Previous Research

Dr. Courneya's lab has previously compared endurance and strength training in breast cancer survivors receiving chemotherapy and found that each has positive results. Endurance exercise improved self-esteem, aerobic fitness, and body fat levels whereas resistance exercise improved self-esteem, muscular strength, lean body mass, and even helped breast cancer survivors complete more of their chemotherapy treatments.

Project Description

Endurance exercises (e.g., walking) and strength exercises (e.g., weight training) have been shown to help breast cancer survivors maintain their function and self-esteem while they are receiving chemotherapy but the combined effects of these interventions have not been tested. In our study, we want to determine if a combined program of endurance exercise and weight training is better than a standard amount of endurance exercise or even a higher amount of endurance exercise in breast cancer survivors receiving chemotherapy.

The study will be an experimental design in which we have breast cancer survivors participate in each of three different exercise programs:

  • a moderate amount of endurance exercise,
  • a large amount of endurance exercise,
  • or a combined program of endurance exercise plus weight training.

Our main interest is in physical functioning, which we will measure before and after the exercise programs by asking participants how they feel on various rating scales. We will also measure their

  • aerobic fitness on a treadmill and
  • how strong they are by having them lift weights.

Contact us 

CARE trial participants, Tara, Arlene, Gayle and Donna completed the CIBC Run for the Cure in October 2012. All took part in our study a year ago.

CARE trial participants at Run for the Cure