…Pick Up those Hand Weights!

Studies have shown that breast cancer survivors may experience deterioration in their physical function after treatment has ended. In a recent paper, researchers compared the physical function at one year post-treatment in women who had been involved in a year-long weight training program, compared to survivors who had not.


The original study included 295 breast cancer survivors who did not have metastatic breast cancer and showed that weight training is safe for breast cancer survivors and may even reduce their risk of developing lymphedema. Participants were randomly allocated to either twice-per-week slowly progressive strengthening/weight training or standard care that did not include weight training. In this recent paper, researchers did further analysis to examine the extent to which participants’ physical function deteriorated over the year. They found a significant reduction in the proportion of women who experienced reduction in physical function in the weight training group. Specifically, in the group that did weight training, 8% of the women experienced deterioration and in the usual care group 16% deteriorated in physical function.


It appears that slowly progressive weight training may help to reduce the incidence of physical function deterioration among survivors of breast cancer. Future studies are needed to see if this is the case for other forms of exercise, such as brisk walking.


In addition to reducing our risk of breast cancer recurrence and lymphedema, exercise may help breast cancer survivors avoid the deterioration in physical function that so many women experience. TurningPoint physical therapists can help you establish a regular exercise program that includes cardiovascular, weight training and flexibility components.


Brown JC et al. Weight Lifting and Physical Function Among Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Post Hoc Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2015 May 11. pii: JCO.2014.57.7395. [Epub ahead of print]