Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 647–656

Physical activity and fitness in women with metastatic breast cancer


  • Jasmine Yee
    • Faculty of Health SciencesThe University of Sydney
  • Glen M. Davis
    • Faculty of Health SciencesThe University of Sydney
  • Jane M. Beith
    • The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse
  • Nicholas Wilcken
    • Westmead Cancer Care Centre, Westmead HospitalThe University of Sydney
  • David Currow
    • Faculty of Health SciencesFlinders University
  • Jon Emery
    • General Practice and Primary Care Academic CentreUniversity of Melbourne
    • Department of General PracticeUniversity of Western Australia
  • Jane Phillips
    • Cunningham Centre for Palliative CareThe University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Andrew Martin
    • Clinical Trials CentreThe University of Sydney
  • Rina Hui
    • Westmead Cancer Care Centre, Westmead HospitalThe University of Sydney
  • Michelle Harrison
    • The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse
  • Eva Segelov
    • St Vincent’s Clinical SchoolUniversity of New South Wales
    • Faculty of Health SciencesThe University of Sydney

DOI: 10.1007/s11764-014-0378-y

Cite this article as:
Yee, J., Davis, G.M., Beith, J.M. et al. J Cancer Surviv (2014) 8: 647. doi:10.1007/s11764-014-0378-y



This study aimed to explore differences in physical activity and fitness between women with metastatic breast cancer compared to healthy controls and factors associated with their physical activity levels.


Seventy-one women with metastatic breast cancer, aged (mean (SD)) 57.7 (9.5) and 2.9 (3.1) years after the onset of metastatic disease, and 71 healthy controls aged 55.0 (9.4) years participated. Of those with metastatic disease, 27 % had bone-only metastases, 35 % visceral-only metastases and 38 % bone and visceral metastases. Patient-reported outcomes and physical measures of muscle strength and aerobic fitness assessments were obtained. Participants wore a SenseWear® physical activity monitor over 7 days, and the average steps/day and the time spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity were determined.


Women with metastases were significantly (i) less aerobically fit than the control group (25.3 (5.4) vs. 31.9 (6.1) mL • kg−1 • min−1; P < 0.001); (ii) weaker (e.g. lower limb strength for the metastatic and control groups was 53.5 (23.7) vs. 76.0 (27.4) kg, respectively; P < 0.001); (iii) less active, with the metastatic group attaining only 56 % of the mean daily step counts of the healthy women; and (iv) more symptomatic, reporting higher levels of fatigue and dyspnoea (P < 0.001).


Women living in the community with metastatic breast cancer possessed lower aerobic fitness, reduced muscular strength and less daily physical activity compared to healthy counterparts. They also experienced poorer functioning and higher symptom burden.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Women living with metastatic breast cancer may benefit from a physical activity programme to address their physical impairments.


Physical activityFitnessStrengthMetastatic breast cancer

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014