Resistance training reduces inflammation and fatigue and improves physical function in older breast cancer survivors.

Resistance training (RT) reduces fatigue and improves physical function and quality of life (QOL) in breast cancer survivors (BCS). This may be related to reductions in systemic and tissue-specific inflammation. This pilot study examines the hypothesis that RT induces changes in systemic and tissue-specific inflammation that contribute to improvements in physical and behavioral function in postmenopausal BCS.

Eleven BCS (60 ± 2 years old, body mass index 30 ± 1 kg/m, mean ± SEM) underwent assessments of fatigue (Piper Fatigue Scale), physical function, QOL (SF-36), glucose and lipid metabolism, and systemic, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue inflammation (n = 9) before and after 16 weeks of moderate-intensity whole-body RT. Muscle strength improved by 25% to 30% (P < 0.01), QOL by 10% (P = 0.04), chair stand time by 15% (P = 0.01), 6-minute walk distance by 4% (P = 0.03), and fatigue decreased by 58% (P < 0.01), fasting insulin by 18% (P = 0.04), and diastolic and systolic blood pressure by approximately 5% (P = 0.04) after RT. BCS with the worst fatigue and QOL demonstrated the greatest improvements (absolute change vs baseline: fatigue: r = -0.95, P < 0.01; QOL: r = -0.82, P < 0.01). RT was associated with an approximately 25% to 35% relative reduction in plasma and adipose tissue protein levels of proinflammatory interleukin (IL)-6sR, serum amyloid A, and tumor necrosis factor-α, and 75% relative increase in muscle pro-proliferative, angiogenic IL-8 protein content by 75% (all P < 0.05). BCS with the highest baseline proinflammatory cytokine levels had the greatest absolute reductions, and the change in muscle IL-8 correlated directly with improvements in leg press strength (r = 0.53, P = 0.04).

These preliminary results suggest that a progressive RT program effectively lowers plasma and tissue-specific inflammation, and that these changes are associated with reductions in fatigue and improved physical and behavioral function in postmenopausal BCS.