Pilates for Breast Cancer

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The need for exercise among survivors of breast cancer is more important now than it has ever been. Recent studies state that exercise is an effective intervention for improving quality of life, cardio respiratory fitness, physical functioning, and reducing the symptoms of fatigue in breast cancer patients and survivors. Scientific evidence indicates that physical activity may reduce the risk of several types of cancer including breast and colon cancer as well as providing other important health benefits.

In Canada, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It develops in one out of every nine women and one out of every twenty-eight will die from it. Such a prominent illness deserves serious attention; however, there are presently no standardized guidelines in place for the management of breast cancer post treatment/surgery. Individuals will often return home from the Doctor’s office unsure about how to enhance their healing process, with little or no information on where to find an appropriate exercise program or a physiotherapist for follow-up treatment. Clearly a void exists between the stages of diagnosis and recovery. That gap must be closed.

After active treatment ends, survivors may suffer from any of the following conditions: fatigue, forgetfulness, trouble thinking, weight gain, pulmonary fibrosis, restrictive lung disease, anxiety, depression and an increased risk of osteoporosis. They will also experience a remarkable decrease in their functional capacity due to a loss in range of motion in the affected arm accompanied by muscle atrophy (loss of muscle). As a result, basic daily activities that were once taken for granted such as combing one’s hair or drinking from a cup will prove to be both challenging and frustrating.  

*New study on the benefits of Pilates: Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors: Impact on Physical Parameters and Quality of Life After Mastectomy





After having a double mastectomy due to breast cancer, Pilates' exercises were recommended.  Samantha came highly recommended not only because she is a good teacher but because of her training and experience with the Pink Ribbon Program, specializing in exercises for breast cancer survivors.  My aim was to improve my posture and strengthen my body.  With her gentle guidance and patience, I can feel and see an improvement.  I now experience the same range of movement as I had before surgery.  I have full feeling in the areas that were left numb or tender after surgery.  And my posture has improved.  I have experienced positive psychological benefits as well, because I feel more comfortable with my body.

I highly recommend Samantha to any breast cancer survivor. You will find yourself in expert and caring hands. 

Samantha has supplemented our classes together with exercises I can do by myself, at home.

      - Debbie Harris


"I highly recommend Samantha Clayton for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, she is an excellent instructor who guides you through the exercises using wonderfully inventive visualizations and who tailors the routine to your specific needs. She closely monitors your form to make sure that you get the maximum out of the exercises -- nothing escapes her critical gaze, whether it's that stubborn hip or errant elbow that are out of alignment. You always feel safe, which is nice because your body has been doing some crazy stuff to you and it’s hard after treatment to gage what your body needs and maybe even what it’s capable of. Samantha is actively interested in all aspects of the post-operative condition and uses her contacts to source information when you have a question or a concern. Last and by no means least, she is very funny, which is no small thing when you've been through the emotional wringer that is breast cancer."

     - JH 



Pilates can help you!

Pilates is a gentle, low impact form of exercise that emphasizes postural alignment, proper breathing, efficiency of movement, flexibility, core strengthening and muscular endurance. It is a suitable introduction or reintroduction to physical activity.

Although there is still little clinical research regarding Pilates and its effects on breast cancer survivors, a recently published study revealed that moderate improvements in shoulder abduction and external rotation range of motion were observed in all subjects*. There is an emphasis on the quality of movement (as opposed to quantity with repetitions rarely exceeding 10), uniform muscle development, and neuromuscular re-patterning. Pilates is a non-competitive discipline and suitable for all fitness levels. *Keays. K.S., Harris, S.R., Lucyshyn, MacIntyre, D.L., Effects of pilates exercises on shoulder range of motion, mood, and upper extremity function in women living with breast cancer: a pilot study. American Physical Therapy Association 2008; 88(4): 494-510


OBJECTIVES of a personal program:

  • Enhance functional capacity/ability
  • Build muscle strength
  • Obtain greater range of motion and flexibility
  • Restore proper movement patterns
  • Resume basic daily activities
  • Increase energy levels
  • Lessen the side effects of nausea (due to chemo)
  • Improve the chances of a more restful sleep


Psychological benefits that may result from physical activity include the following:
  • improved self-image 
  • enhanced self-esteem
  • renewed sense of control
  • improved quality of life

It is estimated that women decrease their physical activity by 2 hours per week after a diagnosis and less than one third of survivors participate in the levels of physical activity recommended by government agencies. Those who do follow exercise guidelines and exercise at a moderate intensity for thirty or more minutes, 5 or more times a week may survive longer. Many co-morbidities may be prevented through exercise. In terms of recurrence and overall survival, studies suggest that survivors who routinely exercise when compared to their inactive counterparts, have a significantly lowered risk of developing disease or dying.


Exercise in general has many health benefits for those who participate regularly:

• manage and prevent high blood pressure

• boost HDL (the 'good' cholesterol) levels while reducing LDL levels (the 'bad' cholesterol)

• assist the cardiovascular system in working more efficiently

• assist in weight control (which is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer)

• help to prevent Type II Diabetes- which has been associated with increased risk of certain cancers (including colon and breast cancer)

 • help to prevent osteoporosis. Because survivors are at a greater risk for osteoporosis due to an early menopause - often caused by chemotherapy and/or aromatase inhibitors - it would behoove individuals to participate in some resistance training to strengthen the bones.


Exercise may also assist in speeding one’s recovery:

Studies have also revealed that adiposity is a significant risk factor for recurrent disease and/or decreased survival among people with breast cancer, yet another incentive to exercise. Cancer survivors who exercise often experience many of the following:

  • stronger immune systems
  • improved mood and higher self esteem
  • less anxiety
  • increased strength and endurance
  • reduced fatigue
  • an increased sense of well being

Exercise also has the ability to mitigate the side effects of surgery and make daily activities more manageable.

Since I am a freelancer I am able to accommodate you by coming to your home. All you require is a mat and some floor and wall space. Purchasing supplementary props can be discussed upon meeting.