Roughly one in eight British women will develop breast cancer.
Pilates can do a lot to help those diagnosed with breast cancer to start regaining their physical confidence, rebuilding their self-esteem and heading down the road to recovery of the body, mind and spirit.
One of the many things that can get neglected during and after treatment for breast cancer is exercise.
Body Focus & Recovery
After a breast cancer diagnosis and the invasive treatments – from surgery to radiation and chemotherapy – that tend to follow, many women are left feeling somewhat detached from their bodies. Pilates can help mend this separation between the mind and body since it makes patients “think” through their movements and focus on the quality of the movement.
Some women with breast cancer experience impaired movement of their shoulder(s) following surgery, such as a mastectomy. Pilates can help slowly increase their range of motion by encouraging and teaching good shoulder-blade alignment while at rest and then incorporating gentle movements from this stable base.
An academic study on the effects of Pilates on the shoulder and “upper-extremity” mobility among women living with breast cancer, published in the journal Physical Therapy in 2008, found that Pilates can indeed improve the mobility of such women.
Focus on Posture
Following surgery for breast cancer, many patients might notice a change in their posture and see a rounding of the upper back as well as some slumping in their shoulders. Since Pilates focuses on posture and alignment, patients can use it to teach their body how to resume a more erect posture and maintain that posture through further back exercises.
The emphasis in Pilates on focusing on the feel of the movement rather than on its appearance can also help build the self-esteem of those who are trying to get back into a routine and to stop worrying about how they look after a mastectomy or other invasive surgery.
A good Pilates instructor can design an individually based program that will progress and evolve as a breast cancer patient starts to regain strength.
As always, it is advisable to ask a doctor before starting any new exercise program.