For many years, breast cancer survivors have been getting bad advice according to an article by Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press. For decades, doctors warned that lifting heavy objects like groceries or weights would cause arm swelling.
New research gathered in a federally funded study, shows that weight training helps prevent this problem. Dr. Eric Winer, breast cancer chief at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, states that women who do lifting have had fewer arm problems because they had better muscle tone and increased bone strength.
More than 2.4 million Americans are breast cancer survivors and this study could make a big difference in their quality of life. Lifting weights, which boosts muscle mass and bone strength, was thought to be a bad idea for women prone to lymphedema (a build-up of fluids that causes painful swelling of the arms or hands).
In the study, half of the women were told not to change their exercise habits. The other half were given 90 minute weight-lifting classes twice a week for 13 weeks. Wearing custom-fitted compression garments on the affected arm, they gradually worked up to more challenging weights and repetitions. They continued the exercises on their own for an additional 39 weeks. Their arms were measured monthly. The weight-lifters reported fewer symptoms and greater strength that the non-weight lifters.