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The effect of resistance training on muscle strength and physical function in older, postmenopausal breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Introduction

Older breast cancer survivors (BCS) report more falls and functional limitations than women with no cancer history. Exercise training could reduce risk factors for future falls and disability.

Methods

We conducted a randomized, controlled trial in 106 early-stage, postmenopausal BCS who were ≥50 years old at diagnosis and post-treatment. Women were randomly assigned to a 1-year resistance + impact exercise program or a stretching placebo program. Endpoints were one repetition maximum bench press and leg press strength, timed five chair stands, 4 m usual walk speed, timed stance tests, handgrip strength, self-report physical function, and fatigue. We also examined the influence of age, adjuvant hormone therapy use, and exercise adherence on study outcomes.

Results

Women in the resistance + impact training program significantly improved maximal leg (p <0 .02) and bench (p <0 .02) press strength compared to the stretching group. Women who attended 50% or more of prescribed resistance training sessions had significantly better changes in maximal strength measures compared to less adherent women.

Conclusions

Resistance + impact exercise is superior to stretching at improving maximal muscle strength and exercise adherence contributes to the degree of improvement.

Implications for cancer survivors

Older BCS can safely engage in resistance exercise that improves lower and upper body strength, thereby reducing a risk factor for falls and future disability. However, the ability of resistance training to shift other indices of fall and disability risk, i.e., balance and function, is unclear. Strategies to promote adherence to resistance training could lead to greater improvements in strength.

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Acknowledgments

Supported by Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the National Cancer Institute (1R01 CA120123, to Dr. Winters-Stone) and with partial support from the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (OCTRI), grant number UL1 RR024140 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. We thank the Oregon State Cancer Registry for their assistance with recruitment efforts for the study. Thera-band provided elastic bands for home exercise programs. We thank Mr. Nathan Brooks, Ms. Camella Potter, and Mr. Anton Stupnitskiy for their assistance with data collection. We also thank Ms. Janice Hoffman, Ms. Laurie Iverson, and Ms. Lisa Domenico for their assistance with exercise training.

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Correspondence to Kerri M. Winters-Stone.

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Winters-Stone, K.M., Dobek, J., Bennett, J.A. et al. The effect of resistance training on muscle strength and physical function in older, postmenopausal breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial. J Cancer Surviv 6, 189–199 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-011-0210-x

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