As October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there is so much love and support symbolized in the hue of pink surrounding the Breast Cancer Community. Even the brawny NFL football players are donning pink sneakers and gloves to raise awareness. Of course, treatments, support groups and our knowledge and research of the benefits of exercise have also come a long way.
According to research conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, “For women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy, yoga offers unique benefits beyond fighting fatigue.” The research was conducted in collaboration with India’s largest yoga research institution, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana in Bangalore, India.
Their findings were presented this summer at the 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and concluded, “while simple stretching exercises improved fatigue, patients who participated in yoga that incorporated yogic breathing, postures, meditation and relaxation techniques into their treatment plan experienced improved physical functioning, better general health and lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels. They also were better able to find meaning in their cancer experience.”
As a trainer who specializes with women who were both in treatment and post-treatment of breast cancer, I have found that exercise is a way for them to not only increase their physical strength and stamina, but to also “get their life back” with a sense of empowerment. Exercise has a way of creating a positive environment where the day-to-day life skills and tasks become easier to perform. Other positive effects from women included an improvement in their fatigue level and the chronic side effects of treatment and anti-cancer medications.
While the last thing women feel like doing after treatment sometimes is getting out of bed and brushing their teeth, it is important that you regain that mind/body connection and get started on some type of regimen. I particularly think that a gentle yoga and/or Pilates routine is a great place to start. The emphasis on the breath is a great way to reconnect with your body and focus on your progress.
Pilates exercises can help regain core strength and balance. In fact, many Pilates programs can be modified to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors. In fact InnerIdea.com, which deals specifically with training teachers in mind/body fitness, has designed a program specifically for breast cancer survivors.
The goal of their Pilates program for breast cancer survivors “is to continue to introduce some very basic biomechanical principles commonly used in Pilates. These basic principles focus on restoring joint mobility with gentle range of motion exercises designed to break down residual scar tissue both from surgery and various treatments.”
The slow, purposeful movements of both Yoga and Pilates have been proven to help create awareness of the body which in turn helps to improve what I like to call life skills. Activities such as housework, walking up steps, gardening, etc. are done with much more ease.
“Study First To Compare Benefits of Mind Body Practices to Simple Stretching – MDAnderson.org.” University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Web 11 Sept. 2011.
“Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer Rebuilding the Foundation – InnerIdea.com.” Inner Idea. Web 11 Sept. 2011.
Joanne Sgro-Killworth is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training.
Joanne's fitness plans and recipes are available globally on her website www.fitnessanswer.com. She resides in the Phoenix, AZ area with her husband, where she runs her personal training business, Fitness Answer, LLC.
Reviewed October 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith