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The Healing Power of Pilates: Benefits for Breast Cancer Patients


A breast cancer diagnosis can be a life-altering event, bringing with it a range of physical and emotional challenges. While medical treatments play a crucial role in the recovery process, complementary therapies like Pilates can offer numerous benefits for breast cancer patients.


In this blog, we’ll explore the incredible advantages of incorporating Pilates into your wellness journey during and after breast cancer treatment. From improved physical strength to enhanced emotional well-being, Pilates can provide a holistic approach to healing.


Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility, and body awareness. It was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century and has gained popularity worldwide for its ability to improve posture, core strength, and overall physical fitness.


In episode 214 of SurvivingBreastCancer.org’s podcast, Breast Cancer Conversations, Nina Prol, Beverly Breen, and Marie McGuire discuss their personal experiences with Pilates and how it has helped them in their journeys being diagnosed with breast cancer.


214. The Benefits of Pilates for Breast Cancer Recovery



Nina Prol, a registered nurse with 30 years of experience working with adult medical oncology patients, discovered Pilates through a chance encounter with a dance instructor. Intrigued by the instructor’s vitality and strength, Nina decided to join a Pilates class and quickly fell in love with it. She went on to complete a 600-hour certification program and now incorporates Pilates into her work with cancer patients. Nina recognizes the importance of maintaining vitality and strength, especially for older individuals, and believes that Pilates can play a significant role in achieving this.


Beverly Breen, an executive assistant who went through breast cancer in 2021, met Nina during her radiation treatment. Nina asked Beverly if she liked Pilates, and although Beverly had only done a little bit of it and some yoga before, she was eager to try. Three years later, Beverly continues to practice Pilates and has even introduced it to her colleagues at work. She describes Pilates as a chance to step aside and find peace, allowing her to take care of herself and feel better.








Exercise is essential for those diagnosed with breast cancer 

Exercise is essential for those diagnosed with breast cancer. This statement holds true for several reasons, as highlighted in our podcast on the benefits of Pilates. First and foremost, exercise helps those diagnosed with breast cancer regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. When diagnosed with cancer, individuals often feel overwhelmed by the disease and may lose their sense of self. Engaging in physical activities provides a much-needed sense of normalcy and control amidst the chaos.


Additionally, exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining both mental and physical well-being. A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, and may lead to anxiety, depression, and body image issues. Exercise has been shown to alleviate these symptoms and improve overall mental well-being. It boosts mood, reduces stress, and increases self-confidence, allowing those diagnosed with breast cancer to feel empowered and in control of their bodies.


Pilates is for everyone 

Pilates is not just for athletes or fitness enthusiasts. It is for everyone, including breast cancer survivors. Pilates can help individuals become stronger and better able to lift heavy objects, carry out daily tasks, and engage in activities they enjoy. It is particularly beneficial for individuals who are on treatments that may weaken their bones, such as chemotherapy or aromatase inhibitors. The resistance and spring-based exercises in Pilates can counteract the toxicities of these treatments and help protect bone health.






Exercise can alleviate fatigue, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance immune function, all of which contribute to better treatment outcomes and overall quality of life. Moreover, exercise has been linked to improved treatment outcomes. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can enhance the efficacy of cancer treatments.


Our podcast episode highlights Pilates as a low-impact exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility, and body awareness and has proven to be beneficial for those diagnosed with cancer. It helps rebuild strength, improve posture, and enhance mobility, which are often compromised during treatment and living with metastatic disease. Pilates also promotes body awareness and mindfulness, allowing participants to connect with their bodies and foster a positive relationship with themselves.


5 Benefits of Pilates:

  1. Lymphatic system support: Breast cancer treatments can disrupt the lymphatic system, leading to swelling and discomfort, commonly known as lymphedema. Pilates exercises that focus on controlled movements and deep breathing can promote lymphatic flow and reduce the risk of lymphedema development or exacerbation.

  2. Improved posture and body awareness: Pilates places a strong emphasis on proper posture and body awareness, which can be particularly beneficial for breast cancer patients who may experience changes in their posture due to surgery or discomfort. Regular Pilates practice can help patients regain their postural alignment and increase body awareness, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal issues.

  3. Stress reduction: A breast cancer diagnosis often comes with significant emotional stress and anxiety. Pilates, with its focus on controlled breathing and relaxation techniques, can be a powerful stress-reduction tool. Engaging in Pilates can help patients manage their stress levels, improve sleep quality, and enhance their overall emotional well-being.

  4. Enhanced core strength: Many Pilates exercises target the core muscles, which can be particularly beneficial for breast cancer patients. Improved core strength can aid in better balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls and injuries, especially during the recovery phase.

  5. Rehabilitation and pain management: Pilates can be customized to suit each patient’s unique needs and limitations. This adaptability makes it an excellent choice for rehabilitation and pain management, allowing breast cancer survivors to gradually regain their strength and mobility.


Pilates offers Social Support and Community

Participating in Pilates classes or group sessions can provide a sense of community and support for breast cancer patients. Sharing experiences and challenges with others who are going through similar journeys can be incredibly empowering and motivating.


If you are curious about the benefits of Pilates, we encourage you to check out one of our movement classes that offer a safe and supportive environment where you can engage in physical activity, connect with others facing similar challenges, and receive guidance from experienced instructors like Nina.



Check out this episode of Breast Cancer Conversations to hear the full conversation on Pilates for breast cancer recovery with Nina Prol, Beverly Breen, and Marie McGuire.





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Thursday Night Thrivers:

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Mindfulness for Wellbeing

February 23 1:30 p.m. ET

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February 16, 10:00 a.m. ET

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Upcoming Events

1

Surviving Breast Cancer provides breast cancer support, events, and webinars at no cost to you! Whether you are looking to gain more knowledge on a particular topic or meet up with other breast cancer survivors, we have something for everyone. 

2

Our standing appointment on Thursdays is for all stages. We also host specific breakout groups once a month for specific stages and subtypes such as Metastatic breast cancer, and Inflammatory Breast Cancer, etc. 

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The Book Club meets the first Sunday of every month at 11 am ET. You are welcome to join each month or pick and choose your month based on your availability and the book we are reading. 

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Through art, writing, and other creative modalities, we hold the power to manage our stress, make sense of our now, and relax into moments of stillness. 

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Free, monthly, online classes in restorative yoga, yoga for breast cancer, and Zumba. 

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