Weight Training Improves Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Survivors

Cancer Connect

According to a study published in the journal Cancer, twice-weekly weight training improved quality of life among breast cancer survivors.

Studies of breast cancer survivors have reported several benefits of aerobic exercise, including improved cardiovascular and immune function, reduced fatigue and depression, and better quality of life. There is less information, however, about the effects of weight training. In addition to the health benefits of weight training that have been observed in other populations of women, weight training may help breast cancer survivors regain a sense of control over their lives and their bodies.

To evaluate the effects of weight training on quality of life and symptoms of depression, researchers conducted a study among 86 breast cancer survivors. The women had completed treatment between four and 36 months before the study began. The researchers hypothesized that women would become “re-empowered” psychologically by increasing their physical strength.

Roughly half the study participants were randomly assigned to participate in a weight training program. The remaining study participants formed the comparison group.

The weight training program lasted for six months and consisted of workouts two times per week. For the first three months, women worked out in small groups and were supervised by fitness professionals.

For the next three months, women continued to train on their own. The weight training program involved nine exercises using weight machines and free weights. These exercises targeted the muscles of the chest, back, shoulders, arms, buttocks, hips, and thighs.

The average age of study participants was roughly 53 years. A majority of women had been diagnosed with stage I or stage II breast cancer.

Compared to women in the comparison group, women in the weight training group experienced significant improvements in quality of life.

  • Women in the weight training group reported higher physical quality of life and higher psychosocial quality of life.
  • Improvements in quality of life were linked with increased upper body strength and increased lean body mass.
  • There was no difference between study groups in depressive symptoms.

The researchers conclude, “Twice-weekly weight training for recent breast cancer survivors may result in improved [quality of life], in part via changes in body composition and strength.”

Reference: Ohira T, Schmitz KH, Ahmed RL et al. Effects of Weight Training on Quality of Life in Recent Breast Cancer Survivors. The Weight Training for Breast Cancer Survivors (WTBS) Study. Cancer. Early Online Publication March 27, 2006.