A new study by researchers has revealed that in addition to building muscle, weightlifting is also a prescription for self-esteem among breast cancer survivors.
The study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, showed that breast cancer survivors who lift weights regularly feel better about bodies and their appearance and are more satisfied with their intimate relationships compared with survivors who do not lift weights.
Survivors' self-perceptions improved with weight lifting regardless of how much strength they gained during the yearlong study, or whether they suffered from lymphedema, an incurable and sometimes debilitating side effect of breast surgery.
"It looks like weight training is not only safe and may make lymphedema flare ups less frequent, but it also seems help women feel better about their bodies," says senior author Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a member of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center.
"The results suggest that the act of spending time with your body was the thing that was important-not the physical results of strength," Schmitz added.
The new insights come from a randomized controlled trial that tested the impact of twice-weekly weight lifting for 12 months on survivors' health and emotional status.
In the first report from the trial, Schmitz and colleagues found that lymphedema sufferers who lifted weights were less likely to experience a worsening of their arm-swelling condition.
But the benefits extend further: Survivors who participated in regular weight-lifting during the trial had a 12 percent improvement in their body image and satisfaction with their intimate relationships over the 12 months of the study, compared with a 2 percent improvement reported by the women in the control group of the study.
Both groups of women benefited emotionally from the weight lifting in the study, called the Physical Activity and Lymphedema (PAL) trial.
The new study has been published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.