Exercise and Movement Therapy
Exercise and Movement Therapy have benefits for pediatric cancer patients both during and after treatment. Though their activity levels may be limited, children who exercise regularly often experience improved mood and physical function. Exercise promotes relaxation, increased flexibility, and strength through personalized instructional sessions.
Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens the heart and lungs, strengthens bones, maintains strong muscles, improves flexibility, endurance and energy, increases immune function, and promotes a good night's sleep. It can also prevent many late-stage effects of cancer therapy. Aerobic and strength training are safe, both during and after treatment. Through group classes, our young patients are also able to socialize with others, combating feelings of isolation or depression.
Dance Movement is a cardio exercise that promotes well-being and helps reduce stress and anxiety. A daily DOSE (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins) of dance allows all the “feel good” neurochemicals to release throughout your system promoting fun and laughter.
Yoga is a system of physical poses, breathing exercises, and meditation, the primary aim of which is to bring balance, or union, to the body and mind. (Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, and the practice originates in India.) Yoga builds strength and flexibility, and encourages functional movement and healthy posture. In addition, practicing yoga increases heart and lung endurance, promotes healthy digestion and elimination, improves sleep, and relaxes the body, all of which can help patients get through treatment with improved quality of life.
Our yoga instructor—trained in Yoga 4 Cancer, YogAlign (for posture and functional movement), and Vinyasa (flow) yoga—teaches children and their families common yoga poses, flow sequences, and breathing exercises. Specific sequences are designed to alleviate routine side-effects of cancer treatment, and to promote wellness in survivorship, and may be practiced at home between visits.
Pilates is a low impact form of exercise that aims to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment, balance, and flexibility. Working with children allows good habits to take place within their bodies from a young age. Pilates' strengthening effects in muscle tone have been shown to be beneficial when atrophy or muscle weakness occurs. Balance exercises and breath work have aided in neurological impairments. Our goal with pilates is to establish a full body connection between breath and movement that carries out into our patients lives. Pilates, whether individual exercises or a short class, is integrated into patients' overall treatment plan and creates a fun atmosphere that all family members can take part in.
Qigong is a series of “internal exercises” that focus on the breath, body alignment, and circulation of Qi along the energetic meridians. The style of Qigong we practice is Zhen Gu Tuina’s Five Element Style. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each element (fire, earth, metal, water, and wood) corresponds to different aspects of our body and mind. Five Element Qigong strengthens the immune system and can be practiced sitting, standing, or lying down.
Can Warriors is a pediatric wellness program that is a collaboration of Columbia University's Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy and Integrative Therapies Program. It is provided in two different formats: group and individual sessions and involves physical activities that focus on aerobic, muscle strengthening, and bone building activities. Children and teens ages 5-18 undergoing cancer treatment are welcome to join a peer group, exploring health and wellness through education, exercise, and games.