Weight training helps breast cancer survivors regain their strength

In a study completed at Florida State University, 32 female breast cancer survivors, ages 51 to 74 years tested the benefits of a strength training program. All of the women had Stage I to Stage III cancer and had completed their primary treatment at least five years prior to the study. Most of the women were overweight and none were currently exercising. At the beginning and end of the study, strength testing was performed, including the ability to do six everyday tasks, like carrying groceries or climbing stairs.

The intervention involved six months of performing two sets of 8-12 repetitions on ten different exercise machines two times per week. Twenty-seven women completed the study and increased their upper- and lower body strength at three months and even more at six months. On average, the participants increased their one rep maximum from 156 pounds to 196 pounds on the chest press and 163 pounds to 205 pounds on the leg press. The women also had improvements in 5 of the 6 functional tests as early as 3 months.

What does this information mean to you, or how can you use it?

As people age, they often experience declines in their ability to function.  We slow-up.  We walk slower, we think slower and we’re not as strong.  After the diagnosis of cancer, these changes are apt to occur more rapidly.  Sometimes, this functional decline can be slowed up or halted, and in some cases, as in this study, survivors can improve their function with lifestyle interventions. This study showed that breast cancer survivors were able to improve their function over six months by lifting weights.

The women who participated in this study had a very simple exercise program that you may be able to do at your local gym or community center.  If you don’t have access to this equipment, do not be discouraged—many of these exercises can be adapted using resistance bands or small dumbbells. Here is the list of the exercises that they did every training session: two sets of 8-12 repetitions of the chest press, leg press, leg extension, biceps curl, triceps press down, overhead press, seated row, leg curl, abdominal crunch, and lower back hyperextensions. A staff member at your gym will be happy to show you the equipment and make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. Remember only two sessions per week of strength training is all you need to see measurable changes.  As with any exercise, clear this regimen with your doctor before you start.




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