Even if a breast cancer survivor has never trained with weights before, she can experience remarkable benefits, as was the case of Jennie Simons, age 63, who, following chemotherapy, couldn’t even bring her hand over her head.

Despite having underwent 15 surgeries for breast reconstruction, and more operations on her arms and spine, due to the ravaging effects of chemotherapy, Simons was able to assimilate to strength training.

After only six months, she was “lifting a lot of weights,” she says. “It helped me mentally and physically.”

Study on Strength Training

The weightlifting was part of a Florida State University study that involved postmenopausal breast cancer survivors—putting them on a strength training program.

Chemotherapy can cause loss of bone density and muscle mass. “If we can prevent that decrease,” says Lynn Panton, study co-author and an associate professor of exercise science, “that’s a step in the right direction.”

Workouts against resistance increase bone density and add lean muscle mass.

Everyone benefits from picking up barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, heavy balls and using strength training equipment.

Hack Squat. Credit: George Stepanek

Tips for Getting Started with Strength Training

  • Breast cancer survivors who already belong to a gym can ask if any of its personal trainers are certified specifically in training breast cancer survivors. Such trainers can also be found online.
  • It’s wise to hire a personal trainer if you’ve never lifted weights before, even if that trainer is not certified specifically in training breast cancer survivors.
  • If you don’t hire a personal trainer, don’t let this stop you from moving a barbell or handling dumbbells.
  • Consult with your breast surgeon as far as range of motion guidelines.
  • Start out gradually with light weight and concentrate on proper form and technique.
  • It’s okay to focus mostly on machine work rather than free weights.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
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Source: sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213112620.htm breast cancer survivor strength training