Triathlon training for women breast cancer survivors: feasibility and initial efficacy

Aurora Affiliations

Cancer Rehabilitation, Department of Physical Therapy

Surgical Breast Oncology, Aurora Research Institute


Exercise can improve quality of life (QOL) in breast cancer survivors. In contrast to many group or home-based exercise programs, little is known about the effectiveness of goal-oriented recreational activities.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate a clinically overseen team triathlon training program on improving physiological and psychosocial health-related measures in female breast cancer survivors.

METHODS: Twenty-three participants (age = 48 (8), BMI = 25 (1), mean (SE)) were recruited from a 14-week sprint triathlon (800-m swim, 20-km bike, 5-km run) team training program for women breast cancer survivors (4 (3) years post-surgery, chemo-, or radiation-therapy). Training included two supervised group and three home-based individual sessions per week. Pre- and post-training outcomes included isokinetic knee extensor strength (60, 180, and 300° s(-1)), 6-min walk test (6MWT), maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), QOL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy -Breast (FACT-B)), and barriers to exercise. Outcomes were also obtained 6 months post except for VO2 max. Significance was set at p < 0.05.

RESULTS: Data are mean (SD) from 21 complete data sets. Knee extensor peak torque significantly improved only at 300° s(-1) (pre 40.3(8.5) ftlb; post 45.2(8.4); p = 0.001). 6MWT significantly improved (pre 632.8(62.1) m; post 657.4(53.2); p = 0.014) as did VO2 max (pre 31.3(5.8) ml kg(-1) min(-1); post 35.9(5.8); p < 0.001). FACT-B also improved (pre 114(12); post 122(13); p = 0.004), including the FACT-G total score, social well-being, and breast cancer subscales while barriers to exercise decreased (pre 54(12); post 36(9); p < 0.001). Strength, 6MWT, and barriers to exercise remained improved after 6 months.

CONCLUSIONS: Team triathlon training in breast cancer survivors can increase aerobic capacity and improve QOL which may contribute to healthier lifestyles in breast cancer survivors.

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