Progressive resistance training in breast cancer: a systematic review of clinical trials

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2008 May;109(1):9-26. doi: 10.1007/s10549-007-9638-0. Epub 2007 Jul 12.


Background: Progressive resistance training (PRT) may be effective for targeting the sequelae of breast cancer and its treatment given the unique anabolic nature of this exercise modality. Therefore, our objectives were: (1) to systematically review studies that have prescribed PRT after breast cancer surgery, (2) to summarize the efficacy of PRT in this cohort, and (3) to delineate areas for future investigations.

Method: A systematic review using computerized databases was performed.

Results: The systematic review located 10 trials: Four uncontrolled trials, one controlled trial and five randomized controlled trials (RCTs). PRT was prescribed with aerobic training in 8/10 trials reviewed, and in isolation in 2/10 trials reviewed. Upper body PRT was prescribed in 7/10 trials, including 4/5 RCTs. No exacerbation of objectively measured or subjectively reported lymphedema symptoms was reported in any of these trials. Adverse events were rare, generally musculoskeletal in nature, and were managed effectively by conservative means. Overall, the studies we reviewed suggest that women surgically treated for breast cancer can derive health-related and clinical benefits by performing PRT after breast cancer surgery. Further research may be required to stimulate greater advocacy for PRT among oncologists, and in community care settings.

Conclusions: Robustly designed RCTs prescribing targeted PRT regimens throughout various phases of breast cancer treatment are warranted. RCTs with thorough, standardized reporting of interventions and adverse events are required to establish the efficacy of this intervention for the post-treatment management of breast cancer patients and survivors as a means to improve health status and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome