Contributed by Club Pilates, Mooresville (

One in eight women living in the United States will develop breast cancer during their life time. For­tunately, thanks to early detection and advancements in treatment, many of them will go on to live out their natural life expectancy. Despite this good news, though, cancer treatments take an enormous toll: survivors face many physical and emotional challenges after surgery and treatment. For instance, because breast cancer and treatment may be disruptive to anatomy around the upper chest and shoulders, simply moving one’s arms can cause great pain.

That’s where Pilates comes in. Pilates is a gentle restorative exercise regimen perfectly suited for women as they recover and work to rebuild their bodies. Interestingly, in comparison with other exercise methods, Pilates seems to be especially effective for improving upper-limb pain and functionality. Research has also shown that breast cancer survivors are able to stick with Pilates programs, suggesting that this is a successful method of exercise for women in various stages of breast cancer. Here are a few other note-worthy bits of information:

  • Pilates improves range of motion, fitness, functional status, and lymphedema as well as emotional aspects such as quality of life, mood, and pain.
  • Two of the most common symptoms addressed by physical therapists during patient rehabilitation are shoulder and upper body pain…Pilates specialties!
  • Cancer treatment often causes overwhelming fatigue, especially while undergoing chemotherapy. Pilates can offer a low-impact introduction (or re-introduction) to exercise that can help women regain their strength.
  • Women who are at risk for lymphedema can exercise but they have to be careful. Since many Pilates exercises are abdominal, they are a natural fit for those concerned about lymphedema.

Tina Weatherford, a breast cancer survivor and member of Club Pilates in Mooresville, experienced first-hand the benefits of Pilates: “My chest and shoulder muscles were SO tight after my double mastectomy. But thanks to my workouts at Club Pilates I am feeling stronger and my range of motion continues to improve. I actually look forward to these classes, and that is a big statement from someone who has always loathed the idea of gyms or cardio workouts. Since my surgery, I’ve had the choice to sit on the couch or be active–I choose Club Pilates!”