According to Lynn Panton, PhD, professor of exercise science at Florida State University, breast cancer survivors are often discouraged from lifting weights after treatment, for fear it could cause lymphedema, or swelling of the arms and/or legs. Panton, however, facilitated a study that suggests otherwise.

Her study, published in Supportive Care in Cancer (2016. doi:10.1007/s00520-016-3374-0), involved 27 female breast cancer survivors. Each woman completed two full-body, moderate-intensity workouts per week for 6 weeks, led by Panton and her students. Each workout consisted of two sets of 10 exercises, performed at 52%–69% of one-repetition maximum for 8–12 repetitions. The women were checked regularly to assess pain levels and swelling.

By the end of the study, swelling had decreased in three women, while the remainder of the group developed no swelling at all, compared with baseline. Several participants noted that they felt more capable of performing activities of daily living as a result of the strength training.

“These findings imply that resistance training can be a safe activity for women with or at risk for breast cancer–related lymphedema,” concluded the authors.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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