Research & Articles


Research: Weight Lifting in Women with Breast-Cancer–Related Lymphedema

Finding: Contrary to common guidelines to avoid lifting with the affected limb, we found that weight lifting did not significantly affect the severity of breast cancer–associated lymphedema.

In an August 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Weight Lifting in Women with Breast-Cancer–Related Lymphedema, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota, and the Mayo Clinic wrote:
 

“Weight lifting has generally been proscribed [in other words, NOT recommended] for women with breast-cancer–related lymphedema, preventing them from obtaining the well-established health benefits of weight lifting, including increases in bone density.” Their findings: “Contrary to common guidelines to avoid lifting with the affected limb, we found that weight lifting did not significantly affect the severity of breast cancer–associated lymphedema. In addition, weight lifting reduced the number and severity of arm and hand symptoms, increased muscular strength, and reduced the incidence of lymphedema exacerbations as assessed by a lymphedema specialist.” They further stated that: “The total number of treatment sessions for exacerbation was 195 in the control group, as compared with 77 in the weight-lifting group. The number and severity of symptoms reported decreased more in the weight-lifting group than in the control group.”

Note: the lead author on this study was Sunflower Wellness Medical Advisory Board member Katie Schmitz.

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