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Answers to the Pink T's Book Contest

September 9, 2007
by Sami Papacek-Reis

1.     True or False-Muscles weighs more than fat.

a.      False-a pound of muscle weighs exactly as much as a pound of fat. Actually muscle is denser and takes up a whole lot less space. This is why you can weigh the same but your clothes will fit looser when you have more muscle. This is a very common misconception but no matter what kind of tissue is on your body a pound weighs a pound. Muscle is much more metabolically active which means that it requires calories to stay on your body. Although it varies, a pound of muscle requires between 25-50 calories per day versus a pound of fat which requires about 5-10 calories per day to remain on your body. This means that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns on a daily basis even before you add exercise and other activities to it.

2.     What do you call the small computer that you can wear to track the amount of steps you take every day?

a.      Pedometer although there are many different types, I suggest that my clients invest in one that can be set to their bodies by the stride length. Itís worth the investment. This is a fun way to see how much you walk a day. The American Council on Sports Medicine recommends walking 10,000 steps per day. This is equivalent to about 5 miles. If this is a lot for you to start with then shoot for 5-6000 and work up from there.

3.     What kind of exercise may help reduce your risk of recurrence?  (two parts)

a.      Walking-walking just 3 to 5 miles per week at a  moderate pace (2 to 3 miles per hour) can reduce your recurrence according to JAMA

b.     Strength training helps lower body fat percentage which is where free circulating estrogen is stored. This lower estrogen level may reduce your chances of recurrence.

Although there are other exercises that will improve fitness, decrease circulating estrogen levels and possibly reduce the risk of recurrence, walking and strength training have gotten the most attention in research studies. However, what you do is based upon preference and convenience. Overall any exercise is better than no exercise therefore reducing the risks of recurrence.

4.     What are some important things that you need to exercise?

a.      Good shoes and proper fitting clothes, water, music (if your me), a good program, good nutrition, physician clearance (lots of answers here)

5.     Can you still exercise if you have had axilary node removal? What precautions should you take?

a.      Yes-get clearance from your physician first, get fitted for a compression garment to wear when you start exercising. Donít lift more than 10-15 pounds. Be cautious of repetitive movement.

Start with exercises that donít require a significant use of the arm such as swimming or tennis. Monitor your arm for signs of lymphedema such as heaviness or swelling. Progress slowly. A good rule of thumb is to increase your cardio by 10% each week. Also when you lift weights, start with exercise resistance bands and work up from there. Start with one set of 8-10 repetitions and progress slowly using the smallest increment increases possible.

Experts now recognize that the health benefits of exercise go far beyond breast cancer recovery; a 2005 study published in JAMA showed how physical activity plays a role in the risk of recurrence. ( Holmes, MD, et al. JAMA 2005; 293: 2479-2486)

Sami Papacek-Reis recently self-published the Pink T's Exercise Handbook, a collection of 90 exercises to help breast cancer survivors create a home fitness recovery program. The handbook is available online at It is designed to benefit survivors at any fitness level once they have completed treatment. I have a PDF file of the cover, but you can also see it on the website.

Sami is a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist and the owner of Life in Focus in Overland Park. She is a fitness trainer and wellness educator, but her main focus is helping breast cancer survivors develop a fitness recovery plan to help them regain flexibility, strength, and endurance at the completion of treatment.


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