October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this means increased attention is given to complementary therapies that may be used in conjunction with medical care for breast cancer survivors.

A company that makes products popular in the massage, sports and rehabilitation arenas announced this week the results of research that indicate that a resistance-based exercise program, using Thera-Band® Elastic Resistance Bands, from Performance Health, significantly improved physical self-esteem, defined as an individual’s feeling of self-respect and worth.

A recent study by Rita Musanti, Ph.D., showed that a resistance-based exercise program, using Thera-Band Elastic Resistance Bands, significantly improved physical self-esteem, defined as an individual’s feeling of self-respect and worth, according to a press release. The stress of a cancer diagnosis, persistent treatment-related effects, and the uncertainty of recurrence can produce psychological responses such as anxiety, depression and lessened self-esteem(1).

Musanti’s study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, looked at the effects of different types of exercise on self-esteem in breast cancer survivors. Forty-two women diagnosed with stage I through III-B breast cancer and who had completed chemotherapy or radiation therapy participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to one of four 12-week, individualized home-based exercise programs—flexibility training; aerobic training; Thera-Band resistance training; or aerobic plus Thera-Band resistance training.

“We knew that exercise prescription had been linked to improved self-esteem in non-breast cancer populations and hoped our study would result in the same findings plus create heightened awareness of this benefit of exercise,” stated Musanti. “Obviously, a woman wants to survive breast cancer, but she also wants to feel good again and that often has to start with her feeling good about herself.

“We hypothesized that combining resistance and aerobic training would have a greater effect on physical self-esteem,” continued Musanti. “However the study showed that resistance training alone increased physical self-esteem more than the combination of resistance and aerobic training. This is good news for those patients who may not have the ability or energy to embrace an aerobic exercise program, or as the first step along the way to a comprehensive exercise program.”

Each participant was assessed for strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, body composition and self-esteem. At the end of 12 weeks, each group demonstrated improvements; in particular, the Thera-Band resistance and combined aerobic and resistance groups significantly increased their upper body strength. The resistance training group also significantly increased their self-esteem; however, the combination of aerobic and resistance training did not provide additional enhancements to self-esteem. In summary, a Thera-Band resistance exercise program is effective in improving both strength and physical self-esteem in breast cancer survivors.

1. Ferrell BR, Grant M, Funk B, Otis-Green S, Garcia N. Quality of life in breast cancer. Part I: Physical and social well-being. Cancer Nurs. 1997;20(6):398–408.

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