Advancing the Effects Of Strength Training In the Treatment & Recovery of Breast Cancer

This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, our CEO Fredrik Correa takes us through the importance of strength training in breast cancer patients and survivors, and how flywheel training makes a difference:

Breast cancer is among the most common forms of cancer with 1 out of 8 U.S women developing invasive breast cancer in the course of their life, or 24.5% of all cancers among women (ref). Raising breast cancer awareness is vital, as successful treatment can save lives.

In our contribution to breast cancer awareness, we want to highlight strength training and its proven efficacy in reducing the risk for all-cause mortality including cancer, and how it significantly improves outcomes and quality of life for breast cancer patients undergoing mastectomy and chemotherapy.

Key points:

  • Exercise interventions in breast cancer patients and survivors improve cardiorespiratory fitness, strength, fatigue, pain, and health-related quality of life (ref, ref2).
  • Strength training in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy reduces hospitalization rates (ref) and shows long-term effects on cancer-related fatigue, symptoms, and strength (ref).
  • Flywheel training in women that underwent mastectomy improved their quality of life and lowered disability score (an index developed to measure pain and disability)  in the shoulder, arm, and hand while also improving strength (ref).

Breast Cancer & Why Strength Matters

If you are familiar with Exxentric products and our brand, you have probably already heard our “Strength Matters” motto at some point in your flywheel training journey. We believe that strength matters in all parts of life and making strength training accessible for all is part of our long-term vision for us as a company.

Strength matters particularly for those fighting breast cancer. And strength training through flywheel technology has scientifically proven benefits in hypertrophy (muscle gain), muscle strength, rehabilitation, and improving the overall quality of life. That’s why we recommend flywheel training as the safest and most efficient strength training option for breast cancer patients and survivors.

Strength Training in Breast Cancer Treatment  & Rehab

This year, 287,850 women and 2,710 men are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the U.S (ref). The good thing is that the overall death rate of breast cancer has been dropping in the last two decades due to earlier diagnoses and advances in treatment (ref). And it’s becoming more and more clear that regular strength training reduces all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality (ref).

Resistance training reduces the side effects of breast cancer treatments, such as loss of muscular and joint strength, discomfort, fatigue, anxiety, and depression (ref). Physical exercise is typically regarded as a part of the overall management of the disease; it has no negative side effects and enhances the general health of breast cancer survivors (ref).

The most common problems observed after a mastectomy are deteriorated functional efficiency, reduced muscle mass and strength, lymphedema, pain around the treatment site, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint (ref).

One of the best types of exercise for people with limited functionality is strength training, which has been found to enhance independence, improve health, and improve quality of life (ref 1). Strength training constitutes a useful type of rehabilitation that does not cause lymphedema, according to recent research (ref 1, ref 2, ref 3). Regular strength training reduces all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality (ref).

Flywheel Training vs. Traditional Strength Training

When undergoing breast cancer treatment, many doctors recommend low-impact and non-strenuous exercise. Devices that impose inertial resistance through flywheels, are one way to enable such strength training. This is thanks to their variable resistance and attachment points (such as the handle on the back of our Harness & Hip Belt for eccentric overload) that allow a spotter or physio to assist and thus reduce the risk of injuries. 

Compared to more conventional resistance modalities, flywheel training is different. Both concentric and eccentric muscle contractions are maintained with high levels of tension. This makes flywheel training very efficient since you can’t skip out on the important eccentric contraction, one of the main drivers for gains in strength and mass. Accountability and safety can also be promoted through an electronic feedback system that provides workout data.

Our Flywheel Training and Sensor Technology

When considering the right type of flywheel training methods and equipment, these are the main reasons we see that physiotherapists implement our flywheel training devices and sensor technology:

  • Safety: in cases of weakness or loss of balance, the user can simply end the exercise or let go of the grips/handles without causing any damage to themselves, the equipment, or anything in their immediate surroundings. 
    • The Hip Belt and Harness are the 2 accessories to look into when it comes to loading one’s back safely. Read the comparison between the two to understand which one is the right fit for you. 
  • Variable Resistance: Since the resistance on the kBox is variable, the patient is always in full control of the resistance. We recommend starting with medium inertia and moderate intensity and gradually increasing from there.
  • Range of Motion (ROM): our devices offer full stimulation over the whole range of motion and in all parts of the muscles, both concentrically and eccentrically. Also, it’s possible to adjust the range of motion to target weak points for clinical usage for recovering patients. 
  • Hypertrophy: due to the variable resistance you can always get your sets and reps in, with no risk of failing. With the load in both concentric and eccentric phases, it provides a solid hypertrophic stimulus.
  • High-intensity training (1RM): High-intensity training has never been this safe with user-controlled action. High-intensity training on our flywheel devices is really demanding but also enabled thanks to the physics of the flywheel but also our ergonomic accessories like harnesses and belts unloading the spine from the unwanted load.
  • Bone Loss Prevention: loading the skeleton is the main way for us to maintain our skeletal structure and integrity and being able to load in the squat can prevent a lot of loss in bone quality and mass in the legs and around the hip, a common place to see osteoporotic fractures (ref).
  • Data Tracking: with our kMeter, the user can view their training data in real-time as well as their progress over time through the data stored in the cloud. This way the user can see concretely the progress they’re making and how close they are towards reaching their goals. 
  • Portability & Small Footprint: working out at home is possible with our entry-level devices such as the kBox and kPulley, due to their small footprint and silent operations. Gyms are often not adapted to and are not ideal places to train for individuals dealing with or recovering from breast cancer. 
  • Lightweight: The equipment doesn’t weigh (9-15 kg) much and is easy to move around, put to the desired training spot as well as stowing it away.

Clear Evidence for Resistance Training

The results of the clinical trials on resistance training for patients dealing with breast cancer or recovering from it speak for themselves. Twelve clinical trials reported significant improvement in muscle strength. There was a significant improvement in aspects related to quality of life, self-perception, balance, range of motion (ROM), fatigue, and pain in all evaluated cases.

Resistance training significantly improved quality of life, self-perception, pain, fatigue, body composition, and muscle strength regardless of when it was conducted (during or after breast cancer treatment) (ref). The strength of the shoulder flexors, extensors, abductors, and adductors significantly increased after inertial training in women who had undergone mastectomies. (ref)

Stay Safe, Stay Strong!

All the benefits of strength training for breast cancer patients and survivors aside, prevention saves lives. The message here is two things: be aware of breast cancer and remember that early detection is key!

The second thing to remember is that going strong is never wrong and having a better foundation if you get sick is always beneficial. In case you are subjected to a disease like breast cancer and aren’t already doing strength training, know that it is never too late to start. 

Happy DOMS!

Exxentric's CEO Fredrik Correa

Fredrik Correa, M.D., CEO

Follow @fredrik_correa




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