ANAHEIM, Calif. – For the millions of breast cancer survivors living in the U.S., there is now a way to regain the strength that cancer and its treatments sap, according to experts who presented yesterday at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 15th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition.
Josie Gardiner and Joy Prouty said it is critical for women to begin exercising again after their cancer treatments.
“After chemotherapy, a cancer survivor can lose as much bone density in a year as the average woman loses in a decade,” said Gardiner. “Most personal trainers and fitness professionals don’t know what the different cancer treatments are, so they don’t know how to treat clients who’ve had them.”
Gardiner and Prouty worked with Carolyn Kaelin, M.D., M.P.H., who is the founding director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, to write The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Fitness Plan. The plan addresses the cancer survivor’s unique needs in terms of flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, strength and balance. It offers 8-10 full-body exercises specific to the cancer surgery and reconstruction, and it focuses extra attention on problem areas such as the shoulder.
“Survivors are half as likely to have the cancer return if they keep their Body Mass Index (BMI) below 25,” said Gardiner. “These women’s lives literally depend on being fit and active.”
For Gardiner and Kaelin, though, the subject matter hit very close to home. Both are cancer survivors.
“Radiation treatments zapped me of all my strength,” said Gardiner. “I was too weak to dry my own hair. Exercise had always been a big part of my life, but none of my doctors knew what I could do to get back to my pre-cancer abilities. I decided to figure it out on my own.”
ACSM recently published the “Roundtable on Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors,” reflecting recent research that shows exercise can improve physical function and quality of life during and after cancer treatment. Historically, cancer patients were told to avoid exertion, but the consensus of experts now is that people with cancer can safely exercise as appropriate for their individual condition.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.