Life After Cancer Treatment: Can Resistance Training Help?

INDIANAPOLIS – For cancer survivors, incorporating resistance training into regular exercise can make a difference, according to research published today by the American College of Sports Medicine. The research is a meta-analysis of 13 relevant studies about resistance training conducted with cancer survivors.

This study, published in the November edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, indicates a strong correlation between resistance training and lower-limb and upper-limb muscle strength, and a moderate correlation between resistance training and lean body mass among adult cancer survivors.

“Incorporating resistance training into a cancer survivor’s fitness routine can improve muscle strength and physical functioning and reduce fatigue, all of which can contribute to an improved quality of life,” said the author, Barbara Strasser, S.D., of the University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology in Austria.

A roundtable convened by ACSM in 2009 concluded that exercise training is safe during and after cancer treatments and results in improvements in physical functioning, quality of life, and cancer-related fatigue in several cancer survivor groups. ACSM and the American Cancer Society have collaborated to develop the Certified Cancer Exercise TrainerSM certification, training health fitness professionals to design and administer fitness assessments and exercise programs specific to a client’s cancer diagnosis, treatment and current recovery status.

Studies included in the meta-analysis were derived from a systematic literature review. The researchers extracted relevant data, including study design characteristics, demographics and participant information, intervention type, dose, intensity and frequency, and study outcomes and results. A majority of the studies examined patients who were participating in resistance training interventions two or three times per week. The studies ranged from 12 weeks in length up to one year. Based on the analysis, resistance training produced a statistically significant gain in muscle strength. Muscle strength has been recognized by a wide body of research as a factor which can increase life expectancy and quality of living for cancer survivors.

“Loss of muscle mass and overall body strength is common during many kinds of cancer treatment,” said Strasser. “Resistance training is a specific kind of exercise that can help survivors build back the strength they’ve lost and feel less fatigued.”

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Journalists: For a PDF of the study or to reach the author or another expert, contact: Annie Spencer (317) 637-9200, ext. 133 ([email protected]) Dan Henkel (317) 637-9200, ext. 127 ([email protected])


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 45, No. 10, pp: 2080-2090) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 133. Visit ACSM online at

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The American College of Sports Medicine supports the 10 Criteria for Responsible Health Reporting as articulated by Health News Review.