September 5, 2021

Breast Cancer and Exercise in Canberra

by Meg Swann

Key  Points For Exercising With Breast Cancer

  • Resistance training can help increase pain free ROM where cording is present
  • Exercise can promote lymph drainage
  • Being physically active can reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence 
  • Exercise before, during, and after a cancer journey can help reduce various side effects of treatment
  • Exercise can help to increase the efficacy of cancer treatment
  • Regular exercise can improve immunity, promote optimal wellbeing and energy levels
  • Exercise can help improve quality of sleep
  • Being physically active can provide benefits upon management of mental health
  • See an Exercise Physiologist to help identify the best form of exercise for you
  • Breast Cancer Recovery Exercise is available here in Canberra

Exercise Physiology and Breast Cancer Recovery in Canberra

Exercise has a very important role to play before, during and after treatment of Breast Cancer and has been proven to be safe and effective. Everyone’s journey with Breast Cancer is respectively different and to find advice specific to you seek guidance from a qualified exercise professional such as an Exercise Physiologist.

This is extremely important because we will take into consideration any comorbidities, previous exercise history, musculoskeletal injuries, and develop a safe program with specific level of progression applicable to your current level of physical function.

How is exercise beneficial before, during and after cancer treatment?


Developing a physical activity routine prior to commencing treatment can help you manage and better recover from treatment, as well as reducing the risk of complications when surgery is a modality of treatment. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality and increase energy levels, which will be beneficial going into a treatment regimen. This is not to say that it is ever too late to start an exercise program! You can start at any point in your journey. Seek advice for one of our Exercise Physiologist's today.


During treatment there are various side effects which can no doubt interfere with overall quality of life. Developing an exercise routine with a combination of aerobic and resistance activity may help to alleviate some of these symptoms for those with a Breast Cancer diagnosis. Some of the most common side effects that have been shown to have a positive response to exercise include; chemotherapy- induced peripheral neuropathy, lymphoedema, cording (Axillary Web Syndrome), bone integrity, sleep quality, sarcopenia (loss of muscle), cognitive impairment (“chemo brain”), cardiotoxicity, muscle and joint pain, cancer related fatigue, weight loss, anemia and the development of metabolic syndrome.

Not only can exercise help with symptom management but when used during treatment of chemotherapy there has been research to demonstrate it can help the chemotherapy delivery and efficacy, which could potentially mean the patient may require less chemotherapy to achieve the required outcome.

If you or somebody you know is experiencing any of these cancer related side effects, book a free chat with us to determine how exercise can fit into your journey.


After completion of cancer treatment no doubt it can take a while for your body to return to optimal function and you can be left with residual symptoms related to the treatment modalities. These may be; lymphedema, cording, fatigue, loss of muscle, decreased bone mineral density (osteoporosis), mental health complaints, weight gain or weight loss, muscular pain, and decreased joint range of motion and function due to surgery.

 Developing a regular exercise routine during this point of a cancer journey will hopefully help to increase your energy levels, physical strength, overall mental resilience, reduce the likelihood of future cancer recurrence and increase overall quality of life.
Once a training regime is developed at this point of a cancer journey we can work together to find a suitable plan to incorporate exercise into your daily life long term to maximise the health benefits for longevity.

To Summarise

✅  Avoid inactivity
✅   Aim to achieve a minimal of 150 min/week aerobic exercise and 2x/week strength training
✅ Seek advice for an Exercise Physiologist today. Book your free chat below


I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2012 while on posting in London. I had a mastectomy of my left breast, with reconstruction at the same time, using my latisimus dorsi. I was lucky to avoid chemotherapy and radiotherapy but went straight on to hormone treatment which brought on pretty intense menopause symptoms and some panic attacks. As soon as I came out of surgery I was told to get moving again, so I started walking the hospital corridors and then around my neighbourhood, even though I still had drains attached! Walking was therapeutic and not only helped me rebuild my strength, but helped me stay positive. One day I walked up the road to the high street, turned right, and walked straight into a shoe shop having a sale. I was able to justify the purchase of two pairs of beautiful French shoes by telling my husband I was following my surgeon's orders to walk, walk, walk!!

I was given the all clear quite quickly, but have been on the hormone treatment ever since and have another year to go. This treatment causes weight gain and while I worked against it, I put on about a kilo every year. In 2016 I rejoined a gym and in 2018 I started working with an EP for the first time. This helped me tackle weights, learn better techniques, and understand the way to get most out of my reconstructed body. Even though I now work out at home (most mornings with friends over Zoom!) I've kept the PT sessions going because they keep me accountable and Erin pushes me more than I would push myself. However, it's Nordic walking that has been the best addition to my training. It's such a great whole body exercise that reduces pressure on joints (mine ache from treatment) and helps my balance, which has been a bit wobbly since surgery. 

In the past 3 years I've dropped 11kg and am fitter than I have been in years. Above all, Nordic walking brings me joy, has built my confidence, and broadened my horizons. As I write, I'm in Alice Springs ready to start a 9 day trek on the Larapinta Trail, something I could never have imagined a decade ago!


Public Servant

In Oct 2019 I arranged for my first mammogram through ACT BreastScreen, aged 46. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. On 15 Nov 2019 I received a text message asking me to call BreastScreen ACT and ask to speak to a breast care nurse.

After follow up tests, my diagnosis was ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The first course of treatment was a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous cells, this happened in Dec 2019. The attempt was not successful as the margins were not clear enough to give the surgeon confidence he had removed all the cancer. Two more lumpectomies followed. During this time the oncologist was not sure if radiation and chemotherapy was the right treatment option; she explained to me they were treatments intended to kill off any cancer cells remaining, and aren't the first line of treatment. Further discussions between the surgeon, pathology and oncology occurred at treatment meetings. The decision was made to remove the right breast via a nipple sacrificing mastectomy with filler inserted and lymph node removal.

This was a confusing time as I had a whole new vocabulary to learn, and make decisions about my physical health. I have also had mental health issues to treat (anxiety and depression). Exercise became a part of my routine in order to keep my mental state well.

The mastectomy was conducted at Easter 2020 and I had a week's stay in hospital. I left with two drains to manage. A further 5 day stay in hospital was needed that same month due to complications with the wound site.

While I was in hospital my options for exercise were limited. I walked up and down the staircases in an effort to keep moving and keep my brain occupied. There was little else to do except sleep and wait for the next meal.

The hospital gave me a photocopied sheet of gentle exercises to do with my weaker side. These involved gentle stretching and lifting light weights - nothing heavier than a shopping bag. The exercises were generic and provided to everyone.

In the following months I did gentle exercise under supervision to gradually increase strength in my right arm and shoulder. I also did cardio and tried to walk every day. At this stage the need to exercise was as much mental as physical. I was torn between not wanting to aggravate my arm, and pushing through the reluctance.

Since April 2020 I have strived to get to the gym at least 3 times a week and walk 3 days. Until recently I was volunteering at Vinnies on Sundays so that doesn't count as exercise days, although it consisted of manual work - sorting, lifting, carrying boxes. The schedule doesn't always work and I'm a wuss in winter but I keep trying. The days where I really don't want to are usually the days when I most need to.


Office Worker

The Best Breast Cancer Resources in Canberra for Exercise

Accelr8 Rehab

As mentioned above Accelr8 Rehab is the best place for you if you need to start exercising and management during or after after Breast Cancer. Exercise Physiology prescription is a great way to get you moving.

Physical health and wellbeing - Cancer Council ACT

ACT Lymphoedema Service
Calvary Hospital
02 6201 6190     

Provides treatment, support and education on all aspects of lymphoedema.

Exercise During Cancer Group
Exercise Physiology Department
Canberra Hospital
02 5124 2573

A free individualised, exercise program run by exercise physiologists for people undergoing cancer treatment or who have completed treatment. Referral can be made by a GP or specialist.

Cancer Rehabilitation
Faculty of Health Clinic
University of Canberra
02 6201 5843

This group exercise session focuses on improving fitness and functional ability for cancer patients and survivors. Each person will be assessed and given an exercise program based on their abilities and treatment level.

Casting For Recovery
0430 450 060

Provide a free fly fishing weekend retreat for women recovering from breast cancer treatment.

Dragons Abreast Canberra
[email protected]

Welcomes all breast cancer survivors, regardless of age, gender, sporting ability or fitness for dragon boating for fitness, fun and camaraderie on Lake Burley Griffin.

Look Good...Feel Better
1800 650 960

A two hour workshop dedicated to teaching women techniques to help restore their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Information is available from the chemotherapy nurse or social worker at each hospital.

Oncology Massage Limited
0416 004 616

Trains qualified therapists to massage people with a history or a diagnosis of cancer. A list of these therapists is available on their website. 

Oncology Yoga
Change Yoga Studio
Unit 6, 26 Francis Forde Boulevard

A yoga program for people diagnosed with cancer, designed to improve mobility, stability strength and calm. Run by an accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher.

0427 810 335

Runs gentle yoga for recovery after serious illness or cancer treatment classes, to regain strength, flexibility and peace of mind.


People receiving treatment at any of the major hospitals in Canberra can ask to speak to a dietitian during their stay.

Community Care Nutrition Service
ACT Health
02 5124 9977

A community based service for adults 25 years and over that offers dietary assessments, advice or counselling for a range of medical conditions, including cancer.

Nutrition and Dietetics Clinic
Faculty of Health Clinic
University of Canberra
02 6201 5843

A student led clinic that provides a range of dietary services including for people with cancer at a minimal cost.

Early Detection and Screening Services

BreastScreen ACT
ACT Health
13 20 50

Provides free mammography screening for women from the age of 40. Available at the City, Phillip and Belconnen Health Centres.

Cancer Council - Cervical Screening

A Cancer Council website that explains the changes to the new national cervical cancer screening program.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Information about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

National Cervical Screening Program

Information about the National Cervical Screening Program


CanTeen- Maybe Later Baby

A guide to fertility for young people with cancer.

Fertility and Cancer – Cancer Council
13 11 20

A Cancer Council guide to fertility for people affected by cancer. Available to view online or order a free copy by calling 13 11 20.

Holiday Break Accommodation

Ronald McDonald Family Retreat Fiona Lodge
02 6281 5894

Offers free holiday accommodation for one week in fully equipped units on the beach for families of children who are affected by cancer or another life threatening illness.

The OTIS Foundation
03 5444 1184

Provides free accommodation and an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing time of sanctuary in a beautiful country environment for those living with breast cancer. Accommodation is located in Thredbo and country Victoria.

Yurana Cancer Kids Holiday Homes
02 4454 1700

Offers free holiday accommodation for families of children affected by cancer or other serious illness. 

Wigs and Other Headwear

Cancer Council ACT Wig Service
Unit 1/173 Strickland Crescent
02 6257 9999

Provides wigs, turbans and other headwear to people who have lost their hair through cancer treatment. The service is open Monday to Friday by appointment.

22 Garran Place
02 6285 1311

Sells a range of wigs, turbans, hats and scarves

2/12-16 Hardwick Crescent
02 6254 4403

Specialises in assisting all women who have hair loss. Sells a range of hats, turbans, berets, beanies, scarves & embellishments. Open Tuesday to Friday 10am – 4pm.

Exercise and staying fit | Breast Cancer Network Australia

Getting regular exercise during and following your breast cancer treatment can have many benefits. It can improve your physical and emotional wellbeing and improve quality of life. Exercise can help manage treatment and cancer related side effects such as fatiguepain and lymphoedema and lowered bone density. It can also improve mood, sleep, body weight, muscle strength, confidence, depression and anxiety. There is very strong evidence that targeted exercise can also reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

When can I start exercising?

We recommend that you discuss starting exercise with your GP or a member of your treatment team and gain medical clearance. Generally, people can start exercising during or after treatment. In general the earlier the better however you may need to make some modifications and take precautions. You might need consider issues like compromised immunity or lymphoedema when talking to your health professional about an exercise program. The frequency and intensity of the exercises should be based on your current health and fitness.

Find exercise programs in your area

How much exercise should I do?

Research suggest that some exercise is better than none, and more is generally better than less. The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines are produced by the Department of Health and are the same for people with or without breast cancer. These guidelines may be something to work towards rather than your starting point.

Summary of recommendations
  • Be active on most, preferable all, days of the week
  • Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting
  • Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible
Adults 18 - 64
  • Aim for 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ - 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 1/1 to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, each week.
  • Try to do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
Adults 65 and over
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
  • Try to be active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility.

If you currently do no physical activity, start slowly and gradually build up to the recommended amount.

More details are available on the Department of Health's Make your Move brochure.

What sorts of exercise are suitable?

It doesn’t really matter what exercise you do, the important thing is that you do something you enjoy. This will help you to stay motivated. It can also help to alternate the types of exercise you do to keep it interesting. Activities you might like to try:

  • cycling
  • dancing
  • dragon boating
  • group sport such as netball
  • gym classes, such as aerobics or step classes
  • lifting light weights
  • swimming or water aerobics
  • walking or jogging
  • yoga or Pilates.


  • You may be at increased risk of bone fracture, for example if you have low bone mineral density, are menopausal or post-menopausal, are an older woman, or have bone metastases. If you are at an increased risk of bone fracture, avoid high impact exercise and exercises where you are at an increased risk of falling.
  • You may be at an increased risk of infection, for example, if you are currently undergoing chemotherapy and have a reduced cell count. If you are at an increased risk of infection check with you medical team before swimming in a public pool.

What about incidental exercise?

Incidental exercise refers to the exercise you get from regular daily activities such as housework or gardening. It can contribute to your weekly exercise total if it is done at moderate intensity.

Incidental exercises that you can include in your daily routine:

  • Walking up the stairs instead of using the lift
  • Walking to the shops instead of driving
  • Getting off the train or bus a couple of stops early and walking the rest of the way
  • Household tasks such as cleaning or gardening

Who should I see for help?

Seek professional advice from an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) or a physiotherapist, who are trained to design individual exercise programs. AEPs are accredited health professionals who specialise in exercise programs to prevent and manage chronic diseases and injuries, including conditions such as breast cancer. You can seek an AEP through a private clinics or your hospital to help with recovery after treatment.

Search for an AEP in your area

Physiotherapists use advanced techniques and evidence-based care to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders. Physiotherapy helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, and increase mobility. They can address a range of needs, including treating, managing or preventing fatigue, pain, muscle and joint stiffness, and deconditioning. 

Find a physiotherapist in your area

Should I be concerned about lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema, or swelling of the arm, hand or breast, sometimes develops in women whose lymph nodes were removed or damaged during breast cancer treatment. Research has shown that regular exercise can help reduce your risk of developing lymphoedema. It can also help you to manage lymphoedema symptoms if you already have it.

You can find more information about how to reduce your risk of lymphoedema on our lymphoedema page or lymphoedema fact sheet.

Aqua aerobics has really helped the lymphoedema in my arm. The water acts like a gentle massage. – Ann

Tips to stay motivated

  • Exercise with a friend or family member.
  • Tell your friends and family that you want to exercise regularly and ask them to encourage you.
  • Alternate the type of exercise you do to help to keep things interesting.
  • Listen to music or a podcast while exercising to keep your mind occupied.
  • Include some exercise in your daily schedule -if it’s in your schedule you are more likely to do it.
  • Keep track of the exercise you complete in a diary.

More information

  • BCNA's My Journey online tool provides more information about breast cancer and exercise.
  • BCNA’s Breast Cancer and Exercise booklet is designed to help women diagnosed with breast cancer to exercise regularly. It provides useful information on the benefits of exercise, practical tips to help you stay motivated, and an exercise diary to keep track of your achievements.
    You can download the booklet here or call 1800 500 258 to order a hard copy.
  • BCNA has a current list of exercise programs by state - click here to find one you might like to try.

YWCA encore | breast cancer exercise program

YWCA Australia’s free Encore breast cancer exercise and information program supports women who have experienced breast cancer to restore mobility, flexibility and confidence. Encore can help you strengthen and tone your arms, shoulders and chest, regain mobility, and improve your general fitness. Based around land and pool exercises and information sessions, Encore is safe, fun and therapeutic. The water resistance exercises can be tailored to suit individual capacity, and the warm water relaxes and relieves affected muscles.

We know that after surgery, many women experience fatigue, numbness, pins and needles, loss of mobility, and discomfort in their upper bodies. Encore can help relieve these treatment side effects through exercise.

YWCA Encore aims to help you:

  • improve mobility and flexibility in your arms and shoulders
  • relieve any discomfort you may be experiencing as a result of surgery
  • reduce the potential risk of lymphoedema or manage existing lymphoedema

Importantly, Encore also focuses on mental health and wellbeing with a focus on body image, self-esteem and reducing stress and tension. 

Encore is a proven program with on average: 

  • 80% of participants demonstrating increased strength
  • 95% of participants demonstrating increased aerobic endurance
  • 70% of participants demonstrating improvements in flexibility

Capital Nordic Walking included on Breast Canberra Australia

 The treatment for cancer frequently leaves people exhausted with a feeling that their energy is just so low that they lack the strength to exercise.  However, exercise is key – both in helping increase energy and also to protect against future cancers. 

The beauty of Nordic walking is that the poles act as support and can really help empower you to get out and be active – from the point of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.  An added benefit is that the perceived level of exertion (how hard you feel you are working) is far less than how hard you are actually working - so most people can do a lot more when Nordic Walking without feeling fatigued.

The whole-body nature of Nordic Walking improves circulation and makes it an excellent weight bearing activity for those worried about osteoporosis. Nordic Walking is ideal as it is a low-impact, total-body exercise that tones over 90% of the muscles in the body and provides excellent heart and lung fitness - much greater than regular walking. 

Many people with breast cancer have the lymph nodes under the armpit partially or entirely removed during surgery.  This has a knock on effect on the lymphatic system and people often end up with lymphedema. The pendulum swing in the Nordic walking technique and upper body and arm muscle activation helps drain the lymph.  It also increases the blood flow to the whole shoulder and chest area, helping with healing, and increasing range of movement and shoulder, arm and back strength. 

To find out more about Capital Nordic Walking's services for people going  through or recovering from breast cancer treatment please refer to the Australian Breast Cancer Network Providers list HERE

Pink Pilates program for Cancer Patients - Back in Strength

Our Pink Pilates Program is a new initiative at Back in Strength. It is designed to help women gently recondition after undergoing surgery for cancer and during/following chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It doesn’t matter what type of cancer, you are welcome to attend our clinic.

The Pink Pilates program is delivered by physiotherapists in Canberra, and provides safe and effective regimes to maximise recovery, regain strength and endurance. 

  • Improve flexibility
  • Restore range of movement
  • Decrease muscle tightness and ease pain
  • Strengthen stability muscles (like the core abdominals) which can be affected with bed rest and inactivity
  • Move to a “wellness’ frame of mind
  • Enhance energy levels


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women; it is estimated that more than 17,500 cases are diagnosed inAustralia each year (150 of these cases will occur in men). While survival rates are influenced by type of disease and stage at diagnosis, 90% diagnosed with breast cancer will be disease-free five years after their diagnosis (1,2). Common treatments for breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted drug therapies. The side effects of treatments depend on the extent of surgery, and on the dose and type of adjunct therapy. Possible side effects include fatigue, hair loss, adverse changes in body composition (an increased percentage of fat), weight gain, nausea, sleep concerns, joint and other types of pain, bone loss, ‘chemo brain’ (feeling vague), and lymphoedema (swelling in the chest, breast or arm).

The impact of high-intensity interval training ... - PubMed

The impact of high-intensity interval training exercise on breast cancer survivors: a pilot study to explore fitness, cardiac regulation and biomarkers of the stress systems

Kellie Toohey 1 2 3 4Kate Pumpa 5 6Andrew McKune 5 6 7 8Julie Cooke 5 6Marijke Welvaert 5 9Joseph Northey 5 6Clare Quinlan 5 6Stuart Semple 5 6 10 7Free PMC article


Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the largest cause of death in breast cancer survivors. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of exercise intensity on aerobic fitness and autonomic cardiac regulation (heart rate variability (HRV)) and salivary biomarkers of the stress systems (HPA-axis, cortisol; sympathetic nervous system, α-amylase) and mucosal immunity (secretory(s)-IgA), markers of increased risk of CVD in breast cancer survivors.

Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to; 1) high intensity interval training (HIIT); 2) moderate-intensity, continuous aerobic training (CMIT); or 3) a wait-list control (CON) for a 12-week (36 session) stationary cycling intervention. Cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2peak), resting HRV and salivary biomarkers were measured at baseline 2-4 d pre-intervention and 2-4 d post the last exercise session.

Results: Seventeen participants were included in this study (62 ± 8 years, HIIT; n = 6, CMIT; n = 5, CON; n = 6). A significant improvement (p ≤ 0.05) was observed for VO2peak in the HIIT group; 19.3% (B = 3.98, 95%CI = [1.89; 4.02]) and a non-significant increase in the CMIT group; 5.6% (B = 1.96, 95%CI = [- 0.11; 4.03]), compared with a 2.6% (B = - 0.64, 95%CI = [- 2.10; 0.82]) decrease in the CON group. Post intervention improvements in HRV markers of vagal activity (log (ln)LF/HF, LnRMSSD) and sympathetic nervous system (α-amylase waking response) occurred for individuals exhibiting outlying (> 95% CI) levels at baseline compared to general population.

Conclusion: High intensity interval training improved cardiovascular fitness in breast cancer survivors and improved cardiac regulation, and sympathetic nervous system (stress) responses in some individuals. High-intensity interval training was safe and effective for breast cancer survivors to participate in with promising results as a time efficient intensity to improve physical health and stress, reducing CVD risk.

Trial registration: This pilot study was retrospectively registered through the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12620000684921 .

Keywords: Biomarkers; Cancer; Exercise; Health; High-intensity; Immune function; Stress.

Exercise for People Living with Cancer

If you are being treated for cancer or recovering, you may havet hought it was important to rest, but research shows that exercise benefits most people with cancer during and after treatment.Being active can help manage some of the common side effects of treatment (see pages 7–8), speed up recovery, and improve your quality of life. For some cancers, exercise may even improve how you respond to treatment. Being physically active, along with eating a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back(recurrence) for some cancer types. It also helps reduce the risk of developing other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.According to the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA)position statement on exercise in cancer care, exercise should be prescribed to all cancer patients as a standard part of their cancer care to help manage the effects of cancer and its treatment. Exercise& Sport Science Australia (ESSA) also encourages people with cancer to exercise.1–2Exercise for people living with cancer should be tailored to suit the type and stage of cancer and any side effects.

PACES research group - University of Canberra

The University of Canberra’s PREHAB|ACTIVITY|CANCER|EXERCISE|SURVIVORSHIP (PACES) Research Group focusses their research activity on three distinct areas of cancer care research: prehabilitation, physical activity and cancer thrivership across the cancer care continuum.

The interdisciplinary clinical academic research group was established in 2019 with expertise in health services research, clinical trials, qualitative research and systematic reviews.

Our research is focussed on clinical problems in the real-world clinical setting of cancer and our research interventions are solution/improvement oriented. PACES programme of research is grounded in unmet supportive care need issues that are regarded as problematic or concerning to people affected by cancer, families/carers, healthcare professionals, healthcare managers, and policymakers. While the problem may usually be a health/clinical or service delivery issue, in some instances it may be a methodological problem that requires addressing in order to contribute to wider health services research.

Our researchers aim to:

  • undertake world-leading innovative research in cancer care.
  • support the University of Canberra’s Centre of Health Innovations in Practice (UC-HIP).
  • enhance the cancer research profile and reputation of the University.
  • provide a synergistic collaborative focus from a variety of academic disciplines related around the central theme of cancer care.
  • increase the institutional capacity for strategic cancer partnerships and collaborations externally and attracting external income and non-monetary support for cancer research and consultancy activities.

The impact of high-intensity interval training exercise on ...


Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the largest cause of death in breast cancer survivors. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of exercise intensity on aerobic fitness and autonomic cardiac regulation (heart rate variability (HRV)) and salivary biomarkers of the stress systems (HPA-axis, cortisol; sympathetic nervous system, α-amylase) and mucosal immunity (secretory(s)-IgA), markers of increased risk of CVD in breast cancer survivors. 

Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to; 1) high-intensity interval training (HIIT); 2) moderate-intensity, continuous aerobic training (CMIT); or 3) a wait-list control (CON) for a 12-week (36 session) stationary cycling intervention. Cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2peak), resting HRV and salivary biomarkers were measured at baseline 2–4 d pre-intervention and 2–4 d post the last exercise session. 

Results: Seventeen participants were included in this study (62 ± 8 years, HIIT; n = 6, CMIT; n = 5, CON; n = 6). A significant improvement (p ≤ 0.05) was observed for VO2peak in the HIIT group; 19.3% (B = 3.98, 95%CI = [1.89; 4.02]) and a non-significant increase in the CMIT group; 5.6% (B = 1.96, 95%CI = [− 0.11; 4.03]), compared with a 2.6% (B = − 0.64, 95%CI = [− 2.10; 0.82]) decrease in the CON group. Post intervention improvements in HRV markers of vagal activity (log (ln)LF/HF, LnRMSSD) and sympathetic nervous system (α-amylase waking response) occurred for individuals exhibiting outlying (> 95% CI) levels at baseline compared to general population. 

Conclusion: High-intensity interval training improved cardiovascular fitness in breast cancer survivors and improved cardiac regulation, and sympathetic nervous system (stress) responses in some individuals. High-intensity interval training was safe and effective for breast cancer survivors to participate in with promising results as a time efficient intensity to improve physical health and stress, reducing CVD risk. Trial registration: This pilot study was retrospectively registered through the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12620000684921.

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