For people with cancer, mind-body exercise like yoga or Pilates can offer both mental and physical benefits.

“The main things with cancer patients are energy and mood,” said Jen Price, certified breast cancer exercise specialist, and an exercise physiologist at Penn State Hershey University Fitness Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in a Penn State University news release.

Price recommended Pilates as a gentle therapeutic discipline to help combat fatigue, improve mood and decrease anxiety. “Patients who feel well enough to exercise should try to continue their physical activity levels while they’re going through treatments,” she said.

This recommendation
is supported by a qualitative study conducted at cancer care clinics in
Vancouver, British Columbia. Researchers from the University of British Columbia and from the University of Oxford conducted the study to gain insight into patient-reported benefits and other factors that may impact participation and adherence in
a yoga program during conventional cancer treatment. For the study, 10 adult men and women with cancer took a 60-minute restorative yoga class three times per week over a 6-month period.

Patients reported on benefits, participation barriers, and recommendations for class delivery.

Benefits from yoga included

  • reduced stress and lessening of other cancer-related symptoms;
  • peer support from group classes; and
  • increased personal empowerment, self-awareness and body awareness.

Barriers included lack of time, poor accessibility, poor personal discipline and lack of funds to cover the cost. Delivery suggestions were to offer the program in a clinical setting and to provide instruction for gentle postures, breathing techniques and meditation appropriate for
a cancer-specific group.

The study, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2015; 15 [245], 1-9), is open access and can be downloaded at

–Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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