Among the many side effects of cancer treatment, muscle loss is one that can make daily tasks such as lifting groceries and running errands become challenging.
Now an analysis of the research suggests that survivors who lift weights and do other resistance exercises improve both arm and leg muscles. And for the strongest arms, resistance training at a low to moderate intensity works the best.
The new study looking only at randomized controlled trials — considered the gold standard of studies — included studies on resistance training among cancer patients and survivors. The researchers ended up with 11 relevant studies that included almost 1200 people. Each comparing a resistance training group against a comparison. The majority of studies worked with breast and prostate patients and survivors.
When you read about the health benefits of exercise for cancer survivors it’s common to lump all exercise together. After all, there’s no bad form of exercise.
A new review of the research now suggests that lifting weights, sit-ups and other forms of resistance exercises can help survivors both during and after treatment gain muscle strength, reduce body fat, and improve fatigue.
The improved effects seen with arm strength and body fat were most pronounced in survivors who engaged in low to moderate intensity exercises compared to those of higher intensity.
Doing resistance exercises at least two times per week led to survivors able to increase the amount of weight lifted, on average, 34 pounds (15.5 kilograms) for legs and 16 pounds (7.3 kilograms) for arms.