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Pilates Is Safe and Effective for Women With Breast Cancer

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Sep 30, 2010

Mind-Body-Spirit News

In June, the American College of Sports Medicine released its first roundtable consensus statement on exercise guidelines for cancer survivors. The roundtable concluded that “exercise training is safe during and after cancer treatments and results in improvements in physical functioning, quality of life, and cancer-related fatigue in several cancer survivor groups, including breast cancer survivors” (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010; doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e0c112).

Researchers from Ege University in Izmir, Turkey, recently studied the impact of Pilates exercise on physical performance, flexibility, fatigue, depression and quality of life in women who had been treated for breast cancer. The study found that Pilates was both safe and effective for women with breast cancer.

Investigators randomized 52 patients into two groups: Pilates exercise and control. The researchers instructed both groups to perform range-of-motion, stretching and respiratory exercises daily at home. In addition, the intervention group practiced Pilates for 1 hour, three times weekly, for 8 weeks, under an instructor’s supervision. All participants were advised to walk 20–30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, during the 8-week program.

Before and after the intervention, researchers assessed subjects on the following: 6-minute walk, modified sit and reach, Brief Fatigue Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory and European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire on functional quality of life, health and symptoms. All 27 Pilates participants completed the study; only 15 out of 25 of the control subjects finished.

Pilates subjects experienced significant improvements in walking capacity, depression levels, physical function and quality-of-life measures. In the control group, walking performance declined and there were no changes in other parameters. Study authors attributed the Pilates group’s success at walking to the fact that in each Pilates class the instructor asked participants if they were walking, and reminded them to do so; control group members probably did not adhere to the walking guidelines.

The researchers concluded that Pilates is a safe and effective exercise for breast cancer patients. No patients experienced any adverse effects, and Pilates participants reported satisfaction with their program. Limitations of the study included its small sample size, the number of drop-outs, researchers not being blind to group allocation, and the short duration of the exercise program.

The study appeared in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (2010; 46, 1–7).

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at