Coming Back from Cancer Treatment

Water Fitness Therapies

By Mary Essert

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2001.

Starting to rebuild the body after cancer treatment is an arduous process. Aquatic therapist Mary Essert has developed an exercise program specifically for breast cancer patients and their physical and emotional needs. Below are three exercises from her water fitness program that has been helping cancer patients across the country for years.

1. Runners Stretch

Place your hands on the facing wall. To protect your spine, tuck tight behind your belly button. Lean into the wall with your right foot flat on the ground behind you. The left knee will be bent; your foot flat on ground about 18 inches from the wall of the pool. Pressing firmly on right (rear) heel; hold stretch minimum of 10 seconds, then bend both knees to stretch opposite muscles. Repeat three times each side. You should feel this in your calf muscles.

2. Scapular Retraction

Take the squat position, with your feet wide and stable. Keep your shoulders in water if possible. Bend arms at the elbow; pull both back at same time until the forearm is parallel to the shoulder. Return to touch in front, elbows together if possible. Pretend shoulder blades will meet. You should feel this in your pectoral muscles.

3. Rotation

Take a forward lunge position, arms outstretched with palms touching. Keep your eyes on your hands as you move your arms just underwater — slowly, first to the left, return to center, then to the right. Keep hips facing forward if comfortable. You should feel this in your latissimus dorsi (lats).