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“Pilates movements help patients to strengthen their bodies, increase their

flexibility and improve their movement and posture.” - Julee Jones

How Exercise Helps Cancer Patients 

An interview with Julee Jones

Exercise cannot cure cancer, but it can make treatments and recovery more bearable for patients.


“In my work to help cancer patients manage and even overcome side-effects of cancer treatments and surgeries through exercise and movement, I have been privileged to help many cancer survivors regain their strength, flexibility and balance,” said Julee Jones, the certified cancer exercise specialist and owner of The Pilates Place in Bellevue. “Their courage and determination give me encouragement and drive to continue to learn more about the consequences of cancer treatments and the help that exercise can offer them in their recovery.”


Unlike a few years ago, today oncologists encourage their patients to exercise during their treatments. Jones makes that possible for clients who visit her studio.


“In 2012, a client named Joanna Montgomery contacted me and shared her cancer story with me. She was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer and wanted to strengthen her body after surgery and during chemo,” Jones said. “She suggested I become a cancer exercise specialist and I did, becoming one of the first Pilates instructors to earn this certification.”


With the knowledge she gained during her cancer exercise training course and with years of Pilates training experience, Jones has been able to help cancer survivors work with movement during and after their cancer treatments.


“Pilates movements help patients to strengthen their bodies, increase their flexibility and improve their movement and posture,” explained Jones, who trained under and was certified by Joe Pilates' successor Romana Kryzanowska.


The main exercise goals and objectives for cancer patients are to:

  • improve overall physical strength and flexibility,

  • correct muscle imbalances,

  • prevent and/or manage lymphedema and other potential side effects of cancer treatments,

  • increase range of motion and correct postural deviations,

  • reduce pain and fatigue.


Jones designs and teaches personalized programs unique to each of her cancer patients using her Pilates foundation. She also remains updated on cancer exercise methods and recommendations.


“Joe Pilates developed Pilates equipment and over 500 exercises which help strengthen the body, improve flexibility and help the cancer survivor improve balance in the body,” she said. “I select specific exercises which will help the cancer survivor and their existing body condition.”


“My goal is to design an exercise program that the client will love, embrace and adhere to,” she said.


This is especially important if the person is not physically conditioned and is reluctant to following a fitness program. Low self-esteem and fear of injury and pain are not unusual after cancer surgery and during treatments, Jones said. Having a trained cancer exercise specialist to safely guide them through an individualized exercise program has a very soothing effect on clients who come to the studio.


“While there may be some apprehension, clients feel safe under my supervision. I take baby steps with each client, ensuring that they are pain-free and that there are no negative side-effects from the chosen exercises,” Jones said. “The exercises help strengthen their bodies and they feel better after their sessions and more confident.”


Behind Jones' work is more than 60 years of research and development which Joseph Pilates contributed to his Pilates method as well as a specialized program created by Andrea Leonard, which educates exercise specialists to be more effective in helping the cancer survivor and cancer patients undergoing treatment. She also takes pains to create a specialized environment for cancer patients in The Pilates Place studio in Bellevue.


“While undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, cancer patients are warned of the dangers of going to places where germs can easily attack their compromised body systems which are weakened during treatment,” she said. “We use natural cleaners at the studio which are void of harmful chemicals, yet effectively kill germs.”


“Clients perform their exercises in a serene atmosphere, and we work together being mindful of how they are feeling on that day,” she added. “Some days we can move more, some days gentle movement is all that is needed. Because breath is an important focus during Pilates exercises as are strengthening weak muscles, improving balance and coordination, the mind is used and mental awareness and increased mental focus and acuity are gained during the exercise session.”


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