TODAY   |  October 27, 2013

Breast cancer survivors heal through exercise

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer survivors who are physically active live longer than those who aren’t. There are some special programs that help survivors heal both body and soul. TODAY’s Erica Hill reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> institute says breast cancer survivors who are physically active live longer than those who aren't. the survivors you're about to meet stand as proof that exercise can heal not only the body, but the soul. their smiles hide their wounds from battles with breast cancer . their bodies tell a story, one of reville yens and recovery as they regain their strength with a focus on fitness.

>> the challenge i think is to make it something that's sustainable.

>> reporter: that's the goal of a pilates instructor in monterey, california. her non-profit, the peninsula pilates project offers restorative classes to breast cancer survivors.

>> at the end of the four-week session, our students leave with a personalized workout and pilates mat so they can do the workout at home.

>> reporter: it's not just the free classes but the comradery that has made all the difference in their recovery.

>> i feel very self conscious about my body and they just put me at ease.

>> we all share a common bond . i have a 5-year-old daughter and i want to be able to be physically active with her.

>> reporter: in wilmington, north carolina , lauren is taking the plunge with her water-based pilates class.

>> it helps with easing the pain of the movement. i've seen miracles happen with this program.

>> i lost most of the use of my arm. i can move it now. i can even take a brush and brush the back of my hair. i hadn't been able to do that in years.

>> reporter: it's one of the reasons newcomer barbara glover comes to class. here she finds hope.

>> i have chemotherapy every three weeks. there are people here in this group that are survivors. they've been survivors for a long time. they got through it. so maybe i can get through it, too.

>> reporter: in new york city instructor martha eddie, an exercise physiologist and her friend, allison, a breast cancer survivor launched moving for life 14 years ago.

>> continuing to exercise has kept me feeling vital. i've seen it empower other women.

>> chemotherapy will sometimes cause damage to the nerves which causes problems with balance.

>> reporter: the gentle aerobic workout takes one hour but its impact lasts far longer.

>> i'm able to move more freely. i don't have any pain at all.

>> we were inducted or thrown into a club that you never wanted to join. you that while you're doing something physical and up lifting. it's a really, really nice thing.

>> we want to note, too, those programs are all free for breast cancer survivors.