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New ballet-inspired fitness class improves strength and balance

Lois Pienkos calls breast cancer “just a bump in the road in my life.” Of course it wasn’t always that way. When Pienkos was diagnosed in January 2009, it was a scary time. But she adds, “Once you get past the fear, you do what you have to do.”

For Pienkos that included surgery, chemotherapy and wellness classes to help rebuild her strength. “Unfortunately my body keeps aging,” laughs Pienkos, now 67.  “So I have to be proactive and Barre Above fits perfectly with that.”

Barre Above is a new exercise program offered through the Nassif Community Cancer Center’s Cook Cancer Wellness Program. “It’s an up-and coming trend in fitness,” explains instructor Stacie Merta. Fusing the best of Pilates, yoga and aerobics, Barre Above is ballet-inspired but it is not a dance class. It incorporates floor work and hand weights—as well as the use of chairs in place of the traditional barre—to help participants improve strength and balance.

Other benefits of this fun workout done to lively music can include increased bone density and range of motion to help patients and survivors get back to the activities of daily living. “Exercise like this can also help with side effects, from neuropathy to depression,” says Merta.

Tara Beem enjoys the Barre Above class.

Tara Beem, 61, loves Barre Above. “It’s a great workout,” says this breast cancer survivor. “Barre classes are all the rage now so it’s nice to be on the cutting edge of exercise trends. And Stacie makes it a good workout for everyone, regardless of your strength or ability.”

Beem also appreciates the community she and her fellow survivors have built through their participation in the Nassif Community Cancer Center’s wellness classes. “Everyone here has a common background with cancer,” she explains. “It’s a really diverse, wonderful group of people and I’ve come to count on them.”

Pienkos agrees. “It’s wonderful having other people around who can both commiserate with and support you. That’s a very important part of the Cook Cancer Wellness Program.” As for Barre Above, Pienkos adds, “It pushes me further than the Pilates I was doing and I like that. Today I feel as strong as I’ve ever felt!”

For more information on the Cook Cancer Wellness Program, click here.

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