Take that, you boobs!

August 19th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  2 Comments

As a member of Stump Nation y’all know that weight training cures everything from hangnails to mother issues. New research shows that contrary to previous medical advice, weight training helps breast cancer recovery. The article linked hints at a tragic scenario — doctors realizing that they had inadvertently counseled women to accept physical decay via inactivity.

“How many generations of women have been told to avoid lifting heavy objects?” Dr. Eric Winer, breast cancer chief at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, lamented after seeing the surprising results of the new study. “Women who were doing the lifting actually had fewer arm problems because they had better muscle tone.”

One lesson here — aside from the obvious (i.e. that weight training is TEH AWESOME!!11!) — is that as active participants in our own medical care, we need to blaze the trail, and help doctors appreciate the benefits of regular physical activity, especially resistance training, for all kinds of chronic diseases. This. Shit. Works. For Realz.

Doctors are working hard, trying to do their best for their patients with the available evidence. They’re not formally trained as nutritionists or physical educators. Some of their advice reflects a norm that is not based in physiological reality but rather harm-reduction (i.e. trying — quite sensibly — to keep you from doing something stupid and screwing yourself up worse) or simply lack of awareness.

Link to abstract in NEJM

A reader emailed me with a more personal testimony of the success of training. As a breast cancer survivor, she was faced with lymphedema and loss of mobility in her arm. She was told repeatedly by well-meaning medical professionals not to lift anything heavier than 5 lb and to avoid carrying backpacks, purses, etc. — indeed, to avoid any activity that could possibly be injurious. Other than massage and compression sleeves, said the docs, there was no good way to improve her condition.

“I just couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life sitting around worrying about my arm,” she writes. And good for her — she read up on the benefits of weight training, decided to ignore conventional wisdom and armed with some good ol’ Stumptuous know-how, started her own weight lifting program. Aided and abetted by her occupational therapist, who documented her progress, our fearless reader “quickly regained full mobility and I eventually recovered most of the sensation in my arm that I had lost due to nerve damage. I still have episodes of my arm swelling, but they are few and far between.”

“What I tried all those years ago was absolutely against medical advice,” she writes.  “It’s funny/gratifying to see documented proof that my actions weren’t as crazy as others thought they were.” Big hugs and congratulations to a tough, rebellious lady and to the lot of you out there secretly hoping to kick a scary disease in the nards.

By way of celebration, I give you the “Boobs, Ozzy?” clip from Austin Powers 3.

Responses

  1. palindrome says:

    August 19th, 2009at 3:11 pm(#)

    Jorg Blech’s recent book “Healing Through Exercise” has a rather long section on the perils of bed rest and inactivity in general. It’s a good read, although Blech seems to think that running will solve all your physical ills. I tend to think that weightlifting will solve your physical ills. But then, he’s the one with the book, and I’m the schlub commenting on some blog.

  2. palindrome says:

    August 19th, 2009at 3:13 pm(#)

    Also, “movement is medicine”. More powerful than for-reals medicine.


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