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Gym woman pilates stretching sport in reformer bed

The Role of the Pilates Professional in Cancer Treatment and Rehabilitation

I am a 12 year breast cancer survivor, and experienced what cancer patients go through, not just from theory, but from living it. I’m going to talk about the role that Pilates had in my rehab and why I consider essential for cancer patients and survivors.

After surgery and treatment, most cancer patients are left with lack of flexibility and range of motion, and poor posture because of the scar tissue. Most experience fatigue from chemo and radiation or just stress of the circumstances. Many go through hormonal treatment which reduces the muscle mass, increases the risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture, bone pain, fatigue, mood swings and lack of stamina and stress.

Breathing is an essential part of Pilates. It helps with stress and stamina, reduces fatigue, opens the lungs and helps with mood swings. When we are paying attention to our breathing, we clear thoughts and allow the oxygen and energy flow through our bodies.

Awareness is a principle that helps us increase the consciousness of our body and the parts that are in disharmony and need to be repaired, isolating them from other parts to progressively make them stronger and healthier. Mind –Body connection

Control is another principle helps coordinate the body parts and move them with the correct alignment, avoiding jerky movements used in general workouts (especially using the Core which we call the powerhouse) and increasing BALANCE that is so affected in cancer patients.

Flexibility and range of motion are key in the rehabilitation for mobility and functionality of the limbs or part of the body affected so we start testing the patient range of motion without any resistance at first.

Pilates machines have springs that allow switching among different resistance according to the patient’s condition avoiding injuries and pain,

Allowing the patient to get FLEXIBLE then STRONGER and then MANAGE THEIR OWN BODY improving posture, Functionality, mobility, self-image and self-confidence.

Exercise Samples


Graciela Perez is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Personal Trainer, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Aquatic Specialist, and a Cancer Exercise Training Institute Cancer Exercise Specialist. She’s been helping people reaching their health and fitness goals since 2003.