A study of exercise for women with newly diagnosed breast cancer

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study is looking at a new exercise programme for women who are due to have treatment for breast cancer.

The exercise programme involves cycling on a stationary bike. It is called reduced exertion high intensity interval training (REHIT).

More about this trial

Exercise can improve treatment outcomes, health and wellbeing for people with breast cancer. It is important to do exercise both before and after surgery. But it can be difficult to do the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day. This may be due to not having enough time. 

We know from research that shorter session cycling sprints can result in health benefits too. This is reduced exertion high intensity interval training (REHIT). The main advantage of this new type of exercise is that it only takes 10 minutes 3 times per week. 

Researchers want to see if this type of exercise helps women having treatment for breast cancer. Some women do the REHIT exercise programme. And some continue with their usual levels of physical activity. 

This study aims to find out if REHIT can improve the health and wellbeing of women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.

Who can enter

The following bullet points list the entry conditions for this study. Talk to your doctor or the study team if you are unsure about any of these. They will be able to advise you. 
Who can take part
You may be able to join this study if all of the following apply. 
  • have a recent diagnosis of invasive breast cancer 
  • are a woman
  • can start the study within 1 week of diagnosis and before you have surgery
  • have surgery arranged within 1 to 4 weeks of diagnosis
  • have a treatment plan that includes surgery, followed by hormone treatment and/or radiotherapy and possibly chemotherapy 
  • are well enough to be up and about for at least half the day (performance status 0,1 or 2)
  • are between 35 and 60 years of age 
Who can’t take part
You cannot join this study if any of these apply. 
  • have cancer that has spread elsewhere in the body
  • are having chemotherapy before surgery
  • are male 
  • are overweight (have a body mass index that is higher than 35)
  • already do more than 5 exercise sessions per week that last longer than 30 minutes
  • can’t do exercise for any reason 
  • have an autoimmune condition or arthritis that limits the exercise you can do
  • have had any other cancer in the last 5 years apart from non melanoma skin cancer, very early skin cancer (CIS) or abnormal cells on the cervix
  • have any serious heart, lung or any other medication condition that the study team think could affect you taking part 

Trial design

The researchers need 30 women to take part. The study is taking place at Manor Hospital in Oxford. 
It is a randomised trial. You are put into groups by a computer. Neither you nor your doctor will be able to decide which group you are in. 
You join 1 of the following groups:
  • the REHIT exercise group
  • the usual levels of activity group (control group)
Before starting cancer treatment, everyone goes to the hospital for 3 testing sessions. At each visit you:
  • give a blood sample
  • have height and weight measurements 
  • complete quality of life questionnaires
  • complete a short cycling fitness test
  • complete a test to check your hand grip strength
REHIT exercise group
You begin the REHIT exercise routine a few days after the testing sessions. These involve 3 exercise sessions a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A researcher will supervise the sessions. They take about 10 minutes. You do the sessions on a stationary bike. In each session you do:
  • a short warm up
  • 2 short cycle sprints
  • a short warm down
You do this for 1 to 3 weeks. You continue with this exercise routine until a few days before the date of your surgery. 
7 to 10 days after surgery or when your medical team think appropriate you start the REHIT exercises. You continue the sessions for 6 weeks or for as long as your treatment plan allows if this is shorter than 6 weeks. 
Usual levels of activity group
In this group, you continue to do your usual amount of physical activity. 
Both groups
After the study, the researchers will offer you a free Nuffield gym membership for 6 months. The membership will begin after the final hospital visit. 
Quality of life
The study team will ask you to fill out a questionnaire before you start treatment and at set times during treatment. The questionnaire will ask about side effects and how you’ve been feeling. This is called a quality of life study. 
Blood samples for research
You give some extra blood samples during treatment. You give the samples at specific times and the study team will give you more information about this. They plan to use the samples to:
  • analyse blood sugar levels and levels of the hormone insulin
  • look at levels of other substances related to health and long term disease including fatty acid and cholesterol

Hospital visits

You’ll see a doctor before you can take part. You have:
  • blood samples
  • height and weight measurements 
You go to the hospital for:
  • 3 testing sessions
  • REHIT exercise sessions
  • a final visit 7 weeks after surgery - the researchers will repeat the tests you had during the testing sessions
You have your cancer treatment at the hospital as planned. Your doctor will give you more information about this.

Side effects

Your muscles may feel sore after exercise and the sessions may be tiring. But the exercise sprints are short, and the risk of injury is low.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Niels Vollaard

Supported by

University of Stirling
Nuffield Health 


Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Harriet wanted to try new treatments

A picture of Harriet

“I was keen to go on a clinical trial. I wanted to try new cancer treatments and hopefully help future generations.”

Last reviewed:

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