Chemotherapy for breast cancer negatively impacts physical function, the immune system and quality of life. Exercise has been shown to improve health related quality of life in breast cancer survivors. We previously reported that it helped in the recovery of lymphocytes. The purpose of this study was to determine if participation in an exercise program would lead to improvements in physical function and quality of life. Methods: Breast cancer patients (N=28, mean age 48.5 yrs) who participated in exercise training following chemotherapy were compared with patients (N=29, mean age 52.3 yrs) who did not train. This portion of the study consisted of three points: before therapy, after therapy, and after three months or 6 months of exercise. Patients underwent fitness evaluations after therapy and met with a trainer for one-on-one sessions three times a week. The training consisted of a 5 minute warm up, resistance training with elastic rubber bands, and approximately 20 minutes of aerobic activity at 60-75% functional capacity. All patients filled out a Functional Assessment of Cancer Related Therapy-Anemia (FACT-AN) at the three study points. A univariant analysis of variance was used to assess the association between fitness and quality of life. A Wilcoxon signed rank test was used to determine a change in lymphocyte activation and a Mann Whitney U test to determine a difference in lymphocyte activation between the two groups. Results: The exercisers showed an increase in fitness as measured by maximum oxygen uptake and upper body strength. After three months, the exercisers showed a significant improvement in overall quality of life, social well-being, anemia score, and fatigue. Moreover, there was an increase in CD4 T lymphocyte activation determined ex vivo and in vitro compared to subjects that did not exercise. Conclusions: Patients enrolled in anexercise intervention showed improvements in physical and immune parameters and quality of life. These findings demonstrate that exercise following chemotherapy results not only in physical benefits, but also improves mental health in patients recovering from cancer. Because the intervention consisted of strength and aerobic training that required minimal equipment, patients can exercise at home to improve compliance. Research supported by the US Army Medical Research and Material Command, DAMD 17-98-1-8142, General Clinical Research Center of The Pennsylvania State University, NIH M01 RR 10732, The Penn State University's President Fund for Research and NSF REU grant through the Pennsylvania State University Nutrition Department. IRB# 16051

[Proc Amer Assoc Cancer Res, Volume 47, 2006]