by Matt Stemley

Did you go through hormone therapy as part of your cancer treatment?  Read this to understand some important ways that WE can help YOU!

Hormonal treatment is common in cancers that are hormonally driven such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.  If the cancer is feeding off the hormones, then the primary goal is to “shut off” the foods supply…aka “shut off” the hormones.

Our hormones are SUPER important as they govern SO much of our metabolic functioning.  We are going to look at 2 primary hormones:  testosterone and estrogen.

What do they do?

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone.  Testosterone and Estrogen in males and females both do very similar things:  they help govern our metabolic processes, help us maintain/grown new lean muscle tissue, and improving/preserving bone mineral density.

So what:  What happens as my hormone levels drop?

As your hormone levels drop you may notice issues with the following things: 

1). Your metabolism will begin to SLOW…this can result in weight issues.  

2). Your lean muscle tissue will DECREASE…this will result in you being less able to do mechanical work such as walking, working out and mowing the grass.  

3). Your bone health will DECREASE.  Your bone mineral density will decrease and lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis.

So what:  What does exercise have to do with this?

Metabolism:  Our metabolism is the rate at which our body utilizes energy.  It consists of our total daily energy expenditure (any activity we engage in) and our basal metabolic rate (the rate at which our body uses energy while in an unmoving state like sitting).  Exercise, both resistance training and cardiovascular training require the body to expend energy and count towards our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which help with weight related issues.  Additionally, while the energy consumption of the body plateaus very quickly after cardiovascular training sessions (high intensity interval training is an exception to this), energy consumption of the body continues LONG after the workout for individuals who engage in resistance training.  Therefore, by engaging in resistance training an individual becomes more equipped to deal with this issue.  As you more regularly engage in resistance training your body will improve the amount of lean muscle tissue it has which will favorably increase your metabolism.

Lean muscle mass decrease:  As we begin to lose healthy, lean muscle tissue some problems can arise.  Our muscle cells use glucose as their primary fuel source, so when we lose muscle we rely MORE on our body to produce insulin in response to the glucose and carbohydrates that we ingest because we have LESS muscle tissue to help clear/metabolize the glucose in our blood.  Overtime this places an increased stress/strain on the pancreas to do ALL of the work.  This is why losing muscle mass can contribute to diabetes, and why INCREASING your lean muscle mass can help you more effectively manage your diabetes.  When you exercise your muscle, cells help your pancreas out by “eating up” the glucose and triglycerides in your blood which prevents it from continuing to circulate, cause inflammation and be stored as visceral fat on an organ (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is an example of this).

Bone health decrease:  As our hormone levels drop it makes it harder for the body to preserve bone mineral density.  As bone mineral density decreases osteopenia and osteoporosis can follow.  These conditions significantly increase the likelihood of orthopedic injury from a fall or collision.  Resistance training and plyometric training have been found to have favorable effects on bone remodeling in those with osteoporosis.  When we do resistance training we put our joints under a greater than normal joint reaction force than what we would experience in our daily lives.  This strategic stressor causes the tendons to pull on the bones and improves bone mineral density.  Plyometric training is a form of high-impact training and should be cautiously used so it is not overdone.  When we do activity where our feet leave the ground and our body accelerates to the ground our body absorbs those ground reaction forces and the shock can actually lead to improve bone mineral density!

But how should I start?

Metabolism:  to work on the metabolic components try arranging your resistance training activities in a circuit so that way you get both an aerobic and resistance training benefit for maximal metabolic boosting!  If you are able enough you may also look into high intensity interval training (HIIT), this is a more extreme form of training where you typically work at maximal effort for a period of time and then rest for twice or three times as long (2:1 or 3;1 work to rest ratio).

Lean muscle:  to work on your lean muscle aim to train each major muscle group in your body (arms, shoulders, chest, back, core and legs) 2-times each week.  Start with just 1 exercise per muscle group and build from there.

Bone density:  to help improve your bone mineral density perform resistance training and plyometric/high-impact activities.  IT IS SUPER IMPORTANT for high-impact activities that you do not do anything you do not feel comfortable with, the next day you should feel good, you should NOT feel achy in the joints of bones.  For resistance training you should exercise each major muscle group 2-times per week and pay attention to your level of joint pain/bone discomfort the next day (again you should fee great the next day).  For plyometric/high-impact training try (only if you feel comfortable):  Step ups, mini jumps in place, agility ladder drills, jogging, running, skipping, shuffling or jumping rope.


At Maple Tree we have a certified Exercise Oncology Instructor ready to help you overcome your cancer’s side effects and teach you how to use some of these tools!  Check-out our website at to find a location nearest you!  Remember, we do virtual training too!