YMCA Class Aimed at Helping Cancer Survivors
St. Peters YMCA offers LiveStrong classes for cancer survivors draw a large crowd.
For decades, doctors, dieticians, and other health professionals have touted the benefits of exercise in fighting obesity, increasing heart health, and improving mental wellness.
But exercise also provides benefits for those who have survived the ordeal of cancer. And the LiveStrong program at the YMCA in St. Peters provides formal physical fitness instruction for cancer survivors.
“Exercise helps give these people more energy,” said Diane James, YMCA Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer. “After going through chemotherapy they are very fatigued. Once they finish treatment they have less chance of a recurrence if they keep their weight down, especially if it’s an estrogen fed cancer.”
The St. Peters YMCA offered its first LiveStrong Class last summer, said James. Since then its reputation has spread amongst cancer survivors and physicians in the area and there’s currently a waiting list to enroll. The YMCA funds the program though a grant from the Tampa, FL, Armstrong Foundation.
The LiveStrong classes are also offered at the O'Fallon YMCA.
The foundation made the decision to fund LiveStrong classes at 10 more YMCA’s across the country and St. Peters was among them.
James has been involved in the fitness industry for nine years. She’s spent nine years as a group exercise instructor and eight as a personal trainer.
“This helps with their quality of life,” she said. “Many of the people I’ve trained come in for a great looking body. There’s a difference because these people are working to make their daily activities easier.”
James said it’s an honor as a trainer to see cancer survivors make progress in their fitness. LiveStrong is 12 weeks long. James starts the class by conducting health assessments in the first week of class.
“In our first week we realized the balance was first bad when they started,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement of balance and core strength. This helps fight the fatigue that comes with chemotherapy and radiation.”
During the assessment phase James talks with participants about their stress level, fitness level, and fitness goals.
“Some want to get back up to the fitness level they had before the cancer,” she said. “And some just want to make their bed without being fatigued.”
Participants in the class are suffering from various types of cancer: breast, colon, cervical and lung. James said most of the people come to the class with a very upbeat attitude.
“Most would be surprised at how positive these people are,” she said.
Each LiveStrong session lasts 75-minutes and includes strength training, aerobic exercise, and stretching. James stressed that each student complete 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The remainder of the time is divided between weight training, stretching exercises, and chair yoga; chair yoga is yoga exercises performed with the aid of a chair.
James said aerobic exercise conditions the heart, burns fat, and helps remove bad cholesterol from the body; according to the American Heart Association’s website, bad cholesterol builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the heart and the brain. James also said strength training helps cancer patients regain lost strength.