Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for June, 2012

Can Strength Training Prevent Lymphedema?

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

We had a great group of women at the SHARE program "Getting Fit after Breast or Ovarian Cancer" on June 27.   The fifteen participants were very energetic in exploring their fitness options and sharing their own experience.  We all got a lot of good tips and resources!

One woman asked an excellent question about strength training and the risk of lymphedema. Traditionally, women have been advised against lifting weights and performing repetitive arm movements in order to prevent lymphedema.  According to a recent study, however, strength training exercises can actually reduce the risk of developing this unwelcome complication, improve symptoms if they develop, and prepare women to return to their normal day-to-day activities.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2009, found that weight lifters had fewer problems because they had better muscle tone and endurance.  A program of progressive weight lifting exercises gradually increased the capacity of the affected arm in a controlled setting, making it less likely that ordinary activities that require upper body strength would overstress the impaired lymph system.

Safety Guidelines for Strength Training:

1)    Always check with your doctor before becoming much more physically active than you are now.
2)    If you have lymphedema, talk with your doctor to make sure that your lymphedema is stable (i.e. you haven’t had new problems in the last three months).
3)    Wear a custom-fitted compression sleeve while exercising.
4)    Consult with a certified exercise professional regarding proper weight lifting techniques.
5)    Start with light weights and progress gradually. Stop if you have pain, increased swelling or discomfort.
6)    Do not increase the weight and number of repetitions at the same time.
7)    Be consistent in your workouts to allow the lymph system to adapt.  If you take a break
from strength training, start back with lighter weights to give the lymph system time to re-adjust.
8)    In the event of a flare up, have an evaluation by a lymphedema specialist and wait until the flare subsides before resuming lifting.

Of course, this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional.

Vacation time!!  We're taking off the whole month of July and will be back in touch in August.

Join Joan Live at Two Events this Week!

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

You're invited!  Please join us for a double-header on Wednesday, June 27.  In the morning, I'll be appearing once again with Dr. Marina Kurian on Sirius XM's "Doctor Radio" show.  That evening, I'll be leading an interactive program at SHARE Cancer Support in NYC.

"Doctor Radio" Show
Topic:  Flat Belly Abs
Date:  Wednesday, June 27
Time:  9-10 am ET
Place:  SiriusXM Radio Channel.81
Call in with questions: 877-NYU-DOCS

Joan at SHARE Cancer Support
Topic:  Getting Fit after Breast or Ovarian Cancer
Date:  Wednesday, June 27
Time:  6:00-7:30 pm ET
Place:  SHARE Main Office
1501 Broadway, Suite 704 A
Manhattan, NYC
Call for information:  212-719-2943

Success Stories: Dr. Alvin Drops 51 Pounds!!

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

As we've been reporting in this column, Dr. Alvin has been steadily losing weight since we started working together virtually in late Jan.  I've never met Alvin in person, but we speak once a week to review his exercise/eating plan.  He keeps a detailed chart of his daily workouts and menu plans, as well as his weekly weigh-in.

Today we celebrated his success in losing the first 50 pounds – 50 more to go!  He told me that this has been the best thing he's ever done in terms of discipline and evaluating things,  that he's now looking at the totality of his whole life and sees that it's changing before him.  In these past five months, he's been the most proud of who he is as a person. In fact, these five months have been the best five months of his life!

It's thrilling to me to be a small part of his success.  Of course he's done all the hard work that it takes to achieve his goals.  My thrill comes both from his accomplishment and from the remarkable effect it is having on his mental disposition.  Healthy body, healthy mind!!


Aging Gracefully Takes Muscle!

Monday, June 18th, 2012


Live event!  Join us for a special presentation and demonstration on strength training and its immense power to help you look and feel amazing - at any age.  Learn how the majority of symptoms we call "normal aging" can be prevented, or even reversed, with appropriate exercise.

Presentation:  "Drop a Decade: Get Fit, Stay Strong with Joan Pagano"
Date:  Wednesday, June 20
Time:  3:30-4:30 pm
Location:  Atria West 86
333 West 86 Street
New York, NY 10024
Information:  212-712-0200
Register here:

How One Woman Transformed Herself…and Her Boss!

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

On March 11 in this blog I introduced you to Elizabeth, who had begun to incorporate more movement into each day by making small changes, such as tip toeing around (to strengthen her calf muscles), stretching at the sink and walking up the steps at the office.  As she progressed, Elizabeth decided to engage her boss, Connie, in a health kick.

March 17, Walking Update from Elizabeth:
I've been walking regularly for 7 weeks along with my other activities, housecleaning, gardening etc. No weight loss to speak of… Haven't eaten any junk for weeks, light lunches (salad) and last week started making a concerted effort to slowly cut back alcohol use. Clothes are looser and I'm very strong and doctors' reports are good so I'll just have to be satisfied with that for a while longer.

March 25, Buddy System:
Connie and I are walking downtown at lunch for about a mile and a half.  I'm trying to walk 6 days now, with a goal of 8000 plus steps. Some days I don't make the 8000 but make up for it by taking a longer faster walk. Hard to believe I could barely make it up three long flights at the office a year ago!  And I did lose about 4 ½ lbs when I last weighed in.

May 5, Logging:
Connie and I are doing even better now since we have been using the free iphone app "Lose it" to log both food and exercise. Our "weigh in" day is Monday and I know I'll have weight loss to report. (I've lost 15 lbs since January, Connie about 10 lbs.) Connie is having a harder time with food than I am. I have been using your approach with her, that is, trying to focus more on her strength, stamina and fewer aches and pains rather than her weight loss. This seems to help her not get discouraged. She has a much longer way to go than I do, and changes show on my frame more quickly than on hers.

May 31, Long Term Goals:
I continue to keep Connie on track and focused on long term goals. She used to be able to drop weight easily in her 30's. Well that day is long gone... So I focus on the long term. A year ago I could never have said "let's go walk 2 miles fast".... She is more "food obsessed" than I am (mine is alcohol as you know). She is on track for 1 1/2 lbs a week-losing 10 lbs this month - with a goal of 50 lbs next April. I started much earlier so my weight loss is at least 23 lbs since Jan. (about 3 lbs a week), plus I can work in the yard or inside for hours and hours.

Take away tips:  Small, consistent changes deliver big benefits in terms of health and weight loss.  Use the Buddy System to reinforce positive lifestyle changes.  Be accountable:  keep track of your efforts in a log to make sure that you meet your goals.  Stay focused on the Big Picture – your health, strength and stamina – and long term goals.  Ask yourself:  What do you need to do now to be your best in 10 years?