A Home-based Motivational Exercise Program for African American Breast Cancer Survivors: A Pilot Study

Physical inactivity in breast cancer survivors is associated with poor physical and psychological outcomes, including weight gain. Physical inactivity and negative changes in body composition appear to be more prevalent in African American breast cancer survivors than in White survivors. A motivational home-based exercise intervention designed for African American breast cancer survivors may encourage more physical activity.

The primary aim was to evaluate the feasibility of a motivational 16-week home-based exercise intervention among African American breast cancer survivors. Secondary aims included the examination of changes in physical activity levels and how these changes affect body composition and quality of life, in addition to other physiologic measures including cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and fatigue.

Sedentary African American breast cancer survivors, within 24 months of treatment, underwent baseline assessments and instructions on the aerobic (brisk walking) and resistance training exercise plan in the Integrative Exercise Oncology Laboratory (IEOL) at UNC. Participants received heart rate monitors and accelerometers for objective exercise monitoring. Post-intervention assessments were conducted in the IEOL after 4 months. The home-based intervention included weekly telephone counseling, based on Motivational Interviewing strategies, and computerized tailored newsletters. 

Findings: Thirteen of 17 women (retention rate = 76%) completed a 16-week home-based motivational exercise intervention designed to address exercise barriers among African American breast cancer survivors. Recruitment was challenging, as the enrollment goal was 40 (42.5%). Results indicated there was a significant increase in total minutes of weekly physical activity, as well as significant improvements in fitness/health measures.  Overall quality of life scores (FACT-B) and fatigue scores improved, but were not significant.  However, scores on the breast cancer specific sub-scale of the FACT-B revealed significant improvement. No significant changes were found in percentage of body fat or bone mineral density.

Geographic Area(s): Orange, Wake and surrounding counties

Research Team: Claudio Battaglini, PhD, associate professor of exercise and sports science (co-principal investigator); Denise Spector, PhD, RN, cancer health disparities post-doctoral fellow (co-principal investigator); William Irvin, MD, assistant professor of medicine; Keith Amos, MD, assistant professor of surgery; Allison Deal, MS, biostatistician; and Lola Olajide, MD and Susan Moore, MD, of Rex Hospital.

For more information about this pilot research study, contact Dr. Claudio Battaglini, co-principal investigator, at claudio@email.unc.edu.