Higher-intensity exercise helps cancer survivors remain motivated

Eric Martin, Claudio Battaglini, Beth Hands, Fiona L. Naumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose The aim of the present study was to determine if exercise intensity impacts upon the psychosocial responses of breast and prostate cancer survivors to a rehabilitation program.
Methods Eighty-seven prostate and 72 breast cancer survivors participated in an 8-week exercise and supportive group psychotherapy intervention (n=84) or control (n=75) group. Intervention participants were randomized to low-to-moderate intensity exercise (LIG; n=44; 60–65 % VO2peak, 50–65 % one repetition maximum (1RM)) or moderate-to-high intensity exercise (HIG; n=40; 75–80 % VO2peak, 65–80 % 1RM) while controls continued usual care. Before and after the 8 weeks, all participants completed the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast or -Prostate to assess quality of life (QOL) and Behavioural Regulations of Exercise Version 2 for exercise motivation. Intervention participants also completed a follow-up assessment 4 months post-intervention.
Results All three groups improved in QOL from baseline to post-intervention, with no significant differences. From postintervention to follow-up, the LIG and HIG similarly maintained QOL scores. Between baseline and post-intervention, both intervention arms improved their motivation to exercise compared to the controls (p=0.004). At the 4-month followup, the HIG had maintained their overall exercise motivation (p<0.001) and both domains of intrinsic motivation (identified regulation, p=0.047; intrinsic regulation, p=0.007); however, the LIG had regressed. Conclusions The structured intervention was successful at improving autonomous exercise motivation, regardless of exercise intensity. However, only those participants who had exercised at a higher intensity sustained their improvement. Intervention participation did not improve QOL more than controls.
Implications for Cancer Survivors Higher-intensity exercise is more likely to result in more sustainable increases in motivation to exercise among cancer survivors.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
StatePublished - Jun 2016


  • . Quality of life
  • Breast cancer
  • Exercise motivation
  • Exercise oncology
  • Prostate cancer


  • Kinesiology
  • Exercise Science

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