Pilates, Exercise and Breast Cancer

Pilates, Exercise and Breast Cancer

Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors
Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month around the globe so what better time to reinforce the message around exercise and its role in preventing and managing disease.

Pilates is enjoying a surge in worldwide popularity as a form of exercise. Heavily endorsed by celebrities who credit their lean and toned physique to Pilates, it focuses on the whole person, connecting the mind and body through a series of flowing movements to improve strength and flexibility.

Over recent years, appropriately qualified Fitness Professionals and Exercise Therapists have been working with other allied health professionals to incorporate Pilates as part of their general rehabilitation programs for clients recovering from surgery, illness and both chronic and acute injuries.

Increasingly, Breast cancer survivors are benefiting from Pilates and modified Yoga as an effective way of regaining ROM post-surgery and managing side effects from treatment including fatigue and nausea.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer usually have surgery, which is often followed by systemic treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation. Many women experience side effects both during and after treatment including fatigue, loss of range of motion and strength in the affected arm, weight gain and poor posture. If lymph nodes have been removed and or radiation treatment undertaken the risk of developing Lymphedema is also an issue.

Typically there are psychological implications to being diagnosed with Breast Cancer and undergoing surgery that may affect your body image. Pilates is one tool that can help survivors regain a sense of control over a body that they may feel has betrayed them.

As a Cancer Exercise Specialist I am qualified to assess, design and implement individual and group exercise programs for clients diagnosed with a wide range of cancers.

I have a special interest in Breast Cancer as a survivor myself and I am skilled in evaluating health behaviours and risk factors, conducting comprehensive fitness assessments, writing appropriate exercise recommendations and motivating clients to maintain positive lifestyle behaviours.

As a graduate of the Cancer Exercise Training Institute I have been trained to develop essential exercises for Breast Cancer Survivors (employing a combination of Pilates and Yoga), and can provide important nutritional guidelines that may give the body the best chance of preventing or recovering from cancer and other debilitating degenerative diseases.

Some of the Benefits of Exercise in Preventing Cancer

  • Maintenance of a healthy body weight
  • Reduction in levels of fat in and around the abdomen
  • Maintenance of the biological system that regulates blood sugar levels
  • Control of some tumour growth factors
  • Improved immune function
  • Reduced symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety and depression
  • Increased levels of free radical scavengers to assist the body in preventing DNA damage

Some of the Benefits of Exercise during Cancer Treatment

  • Increased stamina
  • Increased functional capacity
  • Increased strength and self esteem
  • Improved treatment tolerance
  • Management of pain and fatigue
  • Management of depression and sleep disturbances

Some of the Benefits of Exercise during Recovery from Surgery

  • Increased Range of Motion in the affected arm
  • Regaining pre-diagnosis strength and fitness
  • Managing the fatigue that can linger for months or even years after surgery & treatment
  • Improve postural deviations that can lead to pain and joint deterioration
  • Lose weight and improve body composition
  • Prevent & manage Lymphedema
  • Minimise the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, and other cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month…..

Is a great time to get started on your journey back to wellness. Contact me now to discuss how I can tailor a Cancer Exercise Program to meet your individual needs.


Mental Health & Exercise

Mental Health Week and the Benefits of Exercise

What is Mental Health Week all about?

Did you know that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime? October 4th to 10th was Mental Health Week across Australia. Mental Health Week is part of a national mental health promotion campaign held in October each year to coincide with International Mental Health Day.

It aims to engage communities in activities that promote mental wellbeing, raise awareness and understanding of the needs, experiences and issues concerning people with a mental illness and their families.

You may have been fortunate to have been involved in some of the fantastic community events run over the past week or caught one of the many radio and television programmes designed to raise awareness and help to de-stigmatize this important health issue.

Did you know that there is a strong link between a healthy body and a healthy mind?

In Australia, mental disorders are the third largest source of disease after cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Regular exercise has proven to be effective in the prevention of all three of these diseases. Experts believe that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can also boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better.

As well as releasing natural chemicals that improve your mood and make you feel happier, having an active lifestyle can do more to help your mental health. Taking part in physical activity is a great way to meet people, it can be a chance to give yourself a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and to find some quiet time.

Leading an active life can help raise your self-worth and improve your confidence. It can help you feel valued and help you to value yourself. Exercise and physical activity can provide something worthwhile in your life that you really enjoy, giving you a goal to aim for and a sense of purpose!

According to studies reviewed by the American Journal of Exercise Physiology (Jorm, 2013), there is a strong relationship between physical activity and mental health. Research has shown that exercise may help improve symptoms of mental disorders in particular depression and anxiety. It may also improve functioning and physical health in individuals with psychotic disorders.

Whilst there is limited research on which to guide exercise prescriptions, it is believed that both aerobic and resistance exercise may be effective, as well as programs that consist of 3 sessions per week of at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise for a minimum of 8 weeks. Higher doses may be more effective, but may be harder to stick to, particularly given the additional barriers to exercise that individuals with mental disorders may face.

Start your journey towards a Healthy Mind and Body!

Exercise programs should be developed with an appropriately qualified Health & Fitness Professional in conjunction with your primary treating medical professional and adapted to accommodate circumstances and preferences and to minimize barriers to exercise. As mental disorders increase so do the risk of chronic physical conditions. Exercise can be useful for both mental and physical health, and may maintain well-being and prevent recurrences of poor mental health.

Contact me now to book your complimentary pre-exercise screening and health check and start your journey towards a healthier mind and body!



Jorm, A. J.-J. (2013). Exercise and Mental Health: An Exercise and Sports Journal of Exercise Physiology, 64-73.

Mental Health Foundation UK

Debunking Health & Fitness Myths

Health & Fitness Myths – Fact or Fiction?

Unravelling the fact and fiction around your fitness regime can be challenging, with all the information out there it can be hard to work out what is fact and what is just marketing hype! As a Personal Trainer my clients often ask me questions about “Fitness Tips” they have heard or read – Here are some of my favourites.


Strength training will help you turn fat into muscle!

FICTION: Unfortunately, fat and muscle are two completely different types of tissue. One cannot be turned into the other however it is possible to increase muscle mass which will in turn help to burn fat. When you increase muscle mass, you increase your basal metabolic rate or the amount of calories your body needs to burn to maintain homeostasis. This means that the more muscle your body has the better it will be at burning fat.

With the right Personal Trainer I can target fat reduction in my “problem” areas!

FICTION: I am sorry to disappoint you again but you can’t pick and choose areas where you’d like to burn fat! Spot reduction is the misconception that if you work a specific muscle group you will decrease the amount of fat in that area. The most common example of this is people focusing on abdominal exercises in an effort to lose weight in their stomach area; this is just not going to work! Fat can only be lost from the body as a whole and in an order that is predetermined by your genetics. In order to burn overall body fat I recommend a workout that includes both High Intensity Interval Training and Strength Training. This will decrease your overall body fat percentage, including your “problem” areas. Remember, exercise alone is not enough, you also need to be making good healthy decisions about the fuel you put into your body.

Lack of Sleep Leads to Weight Gain!

FACT: When you’re sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals fullness) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. This combination leads to an increase in appetite. Sleep deprivation tends to lead to food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods. Research suggests that sugar cravings stem from the fact that your brain is fuelled by glucose (blood sugar). So, when lack of sleep occurs, your brain is unable to properly respond to insulin (which drives glucose into brain cells) and you crave carbohydrates to keep going. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, consistently giving in to these sugar cravings will virtually guarantee that you’ll gain weight. Getting proper sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight.

Women who lift weights will bulk up!

FICTION: While on a strength program, the right hormones (testosterone) are necessary in order to bulk up. Women’s testosterone levels are much lower than men’s, so in most cases, they are not capable of building large muscles. In fact, since muscle takes up less room than fat, women tend to lose inches when they strength train. So in addition to the physical benefits (increased metabolism, decreased risk of osteoporosis, increased strength), strength training will help you slim down too!

No pain, no gain!

FICTION: You should definitely not be feeling pain during exercise. Discomfort due to the intensity of the workout? Yes. Fatigue in your muscles? Yes. But not pain! Effort and discomfort go together and that’s what most people would call good pain. You generally expect to feel some level of discomfort during exercise however if it becomes actual pain – burning, stabbing or sharp pain, that’s not a good sign and you should stop. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that it’s beginning to breakdown. So listen to your body when you exercise.

Exercise Boosts Brainpower!

FACT: Not only does exercise improve your body, it helps your mental function. Exercise increases energy levels and increases serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved mental clarity and increased productivity.

What is “HIIT” anyway?

Since my website launch I have had loads of questions about HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. (HIIT) is one of the top fitness trends for 2014; it seems everyone is talking about it! So what is all the hype really about? What is it with HIIT?

HIIT is a training technique which involves alternating between very intense bouts of exercise (in which you give maximum effort) and low intensity exercise or “active recovery” periods. This type of training gets your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time!

Super-efficient HIIT is the ideal workout for a busy schedule whether you want to squeeze in a workout before heading to the office or you are looking to get in shape for a special event. Research shows you can achieve more in a 20 minute interval training session (completed 3 times a week) than you will achieve by spending hours on a treadmill. Physiologists have yet to fully understand why this is, but one reason may be the so-called “afterburn” effect. Known as EPOC (Excess-Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption), HIIT increases your metabolism and burns more calories for up to 24 hours after training.

This means you’ll still be burning fat even after you’ve left your training session!

HIIT may also have other benefits including:

  • Feel younger both inside and out! HIIT stimulates production of your human growth hormone (HGH) for up to 24 hours after a session. This is great news since HGH is not only responsible for increased caloric burn but also slows down the aging process, making you look and feel younger!
  • Get Fitter Faster! The amount of oxygen your body can use (oxygen uptake) is increased during HIIT sessions so your overall aerobic capacity can increase faster than with low intensity endurance exercise. This means you can get fitter faster!
  • Quick and Convenient! Long gone are the days of not having enough time for exercise, most HIIT workouts can be done in 30 minutes or less! Who can’t spare that?
  • Achieve a strong healthy body! Anyone who has been on a diet or undertaken long steady state cardio sessions knows that it’s hard to burn fat without losing muscle mass making it challenging to achieve a strong healthy body. Studies show that by combining HIIT workouts and strength training we can preserve muscle mass whilst we burn fat!

Are you ready for a challenge? For more information on The Restore Fitness & Wellbeing 30 minute HIIT sessions contact us now or lookout for our spring promotion!

What is the best food to eat before a workout?

My clients often ask me to recommend a great pre-workout snack, it’s important to select a snack that produces energy, provides adequate protein and is quick and easy to make.


If you are looking for a personalized plan, it’s always best to see a nutritionist however I am happy to share the philosophy I find works for me!

When I’m planning my pre-workout meal I prefer to leave between 45 minutes to an hour between fueling up and warming up! This is a personal preference and may depend on the intensity of your work out; some people find they need up to 90 minutes to ensure they don’t feel ill during a particularly hard session. I find the most important factors that affect my performance are adequate sleep, hydration and good quality nutrient dense foods.

Here’s a few of my favourite pre-work out choices:

Atlantic Salmon & Sweet Potatoes

I try to eat easily digestible, non-dense carbohydrates. Increasing carbs replenishes your glycogen stores, the most important source of energy for exercise and essential for HIIT training. I steam or roast my sweet potatoes in bite sized pieces and keep them stored in an airtight container in the fridge for quick and easy access.

Salmon is one of my favourite sources of protein and very high in vitamin D which promotes calcium absorption in the gut – this is one of many factors that play a role in hydration and normal muscle function. When cooking salmon for dinner I like to make sure I cook a few extra pieces for my pre-workout meals.

Looking for something lighter? Try these quick and easy options!

Watermelon and Brazil Nuts

1 to 2 large slices of Watermelon (organic is always best) and 2 handfuls of Brazil Nuts.

According to recent studies watermelon before a hard workout can help reduce your heart rate and DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness. That’s because watermelon is rich in an amino acid called L-citrulline which the body converts to L-arginine, an essential amino acid that helps relax blood vessels and improve circulation.

Watermelon will also provide fructose for the immediate energy spike around workout time as well as easily digestible carbohydrates for accessible energy.

Brazil Nuts are low GI and nutrient rich providing a great quick boost of calories, protein and mono-unsaturated fats (good fats) ideal for an intense workout.

Hardboiled Eggs, Organic Green Apple & Blueberries

I always have half a dozen free range boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick and healthy snack – my daughter loves them in her lunchbox too! Combining 1 -2 pre-cooked eggs, an organic apple and a small handful of blueberries provides a pre-workout snack rich in protein, good fats and fructose to give you the benefit of fast and slow burning energy.

So fuel up and get the most out of your next workout!

Yours in wellness…………………

Erin Heath

Welcome to Restore Fitness and Wellbeing


Hi – Welcome to the Restore Fitness & Wellbeing blog! This blog is dedicated to sharing new research and ideas as well as discussing the philosophies of Women’s Fitness, Nutrition and Wellness. I believe the human body is designed to move and that Wellness is a life long journey based on an understanding and respect for your own body. My vision is to help women improve their health, fitness, functional movement, self-confidence and general wellbeing. Together we will explore the latest thinking in training philosophies, nutrition, scientific research, and the many and sometimes confusing new trends that emerge in the industry. I will include motivational and fun images, quotes, and stories plus some of my favourite recipes to ensure you don’t get bored!

Yours in Wellness

Erin Heath