Weight training benefits mind and body of breast cancer survivors

Weight training significantly improves the quality of life of women recently treated for breast cancer, according to a new study. Published in the May 1, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates six months of twice weekly exercise that improved strength and body composition was enough to result in improvements in the overall physical and emotional condition of the patients. This is the first randomized trial to study the effects of weight training on quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Newly diagnosed and treated breast cancer patients often suffer from a multitude of quality of life limiting complaints, including insomnia, weight gain, chronic fatigue, depression, and anxiety. While efficacious treatments for breast cancer have progressed rapidly in recent years, developing new management strategies for these secondary complaints, often related to the treatment itself, is only a recent area of study.

Exercise has been identified as a possible treatment for quality of life-limiting symptoms. A recent review of the effect of aerobic exercise on quality of life among recently treated breast cancer survivors indicated an effect only half as large as the effect noted from six months of strength training. This study represents the first exploration of the effect of strength training on quality of life among breast cancer survivors.

Tetsuya Ohira, M.D. of the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota and colleagues evaluated the efficacy of weight training to improve depressive symptoms and quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Eighty-six women within 36 months of treatment were treated with either a weight training exercise program or no treatment.

Compared to no exercise regimen, weight training improved the women's overall physical and psychosocial quality of life. Significant improvements in lean body mass and upper body strength had the greatest impact on symptoms. "Changes in body composition and strength," conclude the authors, may empower these women with "a sense of return to feeling in control of their bodies that may translate into feeling greater efficacy in other areas of life."

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Article: "Effects of Weight Training on Quality of Life in Recent Breast Cancer Survivors. The Weight Training for Breast Cancer Survivors (WTBS) Study," Tetsuya Ohira, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Rehana L. Ahmed, Douglas Yee, CANCER; Published Online: March 27, 2006 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.21829); Print Issue Date: May 1, 2006.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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