My Experience with Livestrong at the YMCA
Last updated: June 2023
Have you heard about this spectacular program called LIVESTRONG at the YMCA? It is an amazing partnership with Livestrong, the cancer support community, and local YMCAs all across the United States to promote physical activity in an affordable way after cancer. I was very fortunate to be able to participate in a 12 week session in 2016.
In order for a YMCA location to qualify, there must be at least one Personal Trainer who is trained in the specifics relating to a cancer patient. This person must be trained in supportive cancer care, post-rehabilitation exercise, and most importantly, survivorship.
Cancer type or stage doesn't matter
For a cancer survivor to participate in the program, it doesn't matter what type of cancer you have. Stage doesn't matter. Whether you are currently in treatment or not doesn't matter. All that matters is that your Primary Care Physician or your Oncologist must sign a release for you to participate. It is FREE, and a YMCA membership is free for that time as well.
Exercise, nutrition, and more
On Day 1, we were told all about the program and what was to come. During each session (1-1/2 hours, three times a week), we would have warm-ups followed by light exercises that can be modified to be more challenging to anyone in great health, and education on different topics. Nutrition, stress, side-effects, family/support and much more were also covered. On your very first day, you are also given a series of tests to gauge your physical tolerance. These tests are done on the final day as well to help you see the progress you've made.
Examples of some modifications:
- When working with resistance bands, any participant may choose to use bands standing up or sitting in a chair.
- Each person may choose which band to use to accommodate their strengths.
I was transformed
When I started the program, my physical fitness level was on the same level as a caterpillar. I really mean that. I didn't even walk frequently. I had my doubts that I would make it through the first day. Twelve weeks later, I was amazed. I could walk further with less shortness of breath. I could go up stairs with no shortness of breath. In short, I was transformed.
Changes in my levels of fatigue
Simply take one minute out of your day to visit Livestrong and see if your local YMCA has the program. Recent research from the Yale Cancer Center and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Institute confirmed that LIVESTRONG at the YMCA participants experience improved fitness and quality of life, as well as significant decreases in cancer-related fatigue.1 I, having participated in the program, can attest to that research. My fatigue prior to the program lasted for 4 days after each immunotherapy infusion! That is now down to a day and a half. I remember back when I was on chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously, this would have been a welcomed feeling.
Has cancer impacted your mood during the holidays?