Physical Activity and Survival in Women With Advanced Breast Cancer

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Several empirical investigations have attempted to characterize the effect of physical activity on cancer mortality, but these investigations have rarely focused on patients with advanced breast cancer.


The current study examined the hypothesis that greater physical activity is associated with longer survival among women with advanced breast cancer.


We conducted a secondary data analysis of a prospective study of 103 patients with stage IV (n = 100) or locally recurrent (n = 3) breast cancer involved in a group psychotherapy trial. Physical activity was assessed at baseline using the Seven-Day Physical Activity Recall questionnaire, and patients were followed until April 1, 2016, at which time 93 of 103 had died.


Greater physical activity level at baseline was significantly associated with longer subsequent survival time in a Cox proportional hazards model (hazard ratio [HR], 0.90; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84–0.97; P < .01). Engaging in 1 additional hour per day of moderate activity reduced the hazard of subsequent mortality by 23% (HR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.65–0.92; P < .01). These results remained significant even after controlling for demographic, medical, cancer, depression, and cortisol variables (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84–0.99; P < .05).


Women with advanced breast cancer who engaged in physical activity for 1 or more hours per day at baseline had an increased likelihood of survival compared with those who exercised less than 1 hour per day.

Implications for Practice:

Nurses should consider recommending moderate physical activity for women with advanced breast cancer. Randomized trials of physical activity interventions for this population are needed.

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