Objectives: Medical research indicates that exercise for breast cancer survivors is safe and beneficial not only during recovery but also after treatment is completed. Aerobic exercise may even prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. Despite this research, few treatment programs provide adequate exercise information to survivors. A low-cost home exercise program specifically for breast cancer survivors is needed. We have created an exercise DVD for survivors that guides participants from postoperative rehabilitation to full recovery of upper body flexibility and strength. It also encourages routine aerobic exercise.
Methods: Strength & Courage is a 75-minute DVD divided into 5 chapters. The introductory chapter features Dr Adam Brufsky, a breast cancer oncologist, discussing medical research supporting the importance of exercise to survivors. This is followed by 3 chapters leading the participant from postoperative stretching and postural exercises to advanced flexibility training and finally to modest weight training. The last chapter provides guidance for aerobic exercise. A special chapter was added highlighting the importance of exercise, especially modest weight training, for those with or at risk for lymphedema. All exercises are based on established research.
Results: Since 2008, approximately 15,000 DVDs have been distributed in all 50 states and 10 other countries. Limited surveys completed by DVD users show the exercises to be helpful in regaining upper body flexibility and strength. Three US medical centers are now conducting trials studying the feasibility of the exercises presented in the Strength & Courage DVD.
Conclusions: To reach the existing population of more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone—many in rural areas—a home exercise program that is clinically effective is needed. A home exercise DVD can be a beneficial tool in rehabilitation after breast cancer treatment. It can also help establish a lifetime exercise pattern. The extensive distribution of Strength & Courage, a nonprofit effort, demonstrates the compelling need for such a resource. Research trials currently under way may provide further support for the safety and efficacy of this program.