Exercise Reduces Metabolic Syndrome Risks Among Breast Cancer Survivors

March 12, 2018
Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, FAAN

Breast cancer survivors who exercise could reduce their risk of cardiovascular events, stroke, and diabetes, study shows.

Metabolic syndrome, a group of factors that raises risk of heart disease and other health problems, is particularly troublesome for breast cancer survivors. In addition to increased risk cardiovascular events, stroke, and diabetes, the risk of recurrent disease is increased. Could exercise help reduce these risks?

A randomized controlled trial assessed the effects of a 16-week combined aerobic and resistance exercise intervention on metabolic syndrome, obesity, and serum biomarkers among a group of 100 breast cancer survivors who were ethnically diverse, sedentary, and overweight or obese. The women were divided into two groups of 50 and randomly assigned to exercise or usual activity.

The exercise group exercised at a moderate to vigorous heart rate and performed resistance exercises three times a week for 16 weeks. The women were age 53 on average and the exercise group had a 95% compliance rate.

At 16 weeks, the metabolic syndrome z-score was significantly improved among the women who exercised. Body mass index and biomarkers (insulin, leptin, and others) were significantly improved in the exercise group but not in the usual activity group. The women who exercised even maintained improvement at the 3-month follow-up assessment.

The researchers concluded that combined aerobic and resistance exercise may improve metabolic syndrome in breast cancer survivors, and recommend inclusion of exercise in survivorship care plans. Results of this study were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.