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Saturday, March 24 News

Livestrong program a success at YMCA

The New Canaan YMCA hosted its first session of the national program Livestrong in the fall.

The 12-week program for cancer survivors within the community came to an end Dec. 18 with a graduation event.

The Livestrong at the YMCA program is a research-based program that offers people affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to participate in physical and social activities focused on strengthening the whole person. Medical studies have shown that moderate levels of appropriate physical activity can reduce fatigue, boost self-esteem and improve muscle strength and physical endurance in individuals following cancer treatment. Livestrong at the YMCA seeks to address the limited availability of physical-activity programs specifically for cancer survivors.

Seven cancer survivors from the community, ranging in age from 45 to 78, participated in the pilot program. Participants met twice a week at the Y and worked with two Livestrong at the YMCA certified personal trainers. The group enjoyed working out and interacting with each other in the Wellness Center, trying a variety of Y classes based on their interests, learning meditation and relaxation exercises, stretching, and more.

Just five weeks into the program, one participant, who is a breast-cancer survivor, said, "I can see a difference in every person. I think everyone has gained something, whether physical or psychological."

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Another participant, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer, added, "The instructors have been so welcoming, caring, and dedicated to helping each of us. They go above and beyond."

At the graduation event, one of the participants said, "I love this class; we became family. In the future, I hope to continue these relationships."

Another participant wanted to let other cancer survivors know about the program, saying "You can work and progress at your own pace. I felt very comfortable coming into the program because I knew that my friends were waiting for me."

Many of the participants also said that they have been able to implement tips and exercises they have learned from the program outside of the Y, whether exercising at home or remembering to stand up straight when at the grocery store.

"It's about knowing what your body can do, not what it can't," Deb Kozar, a Livestrong at the YMCA personal trainer, said of her advice that she gives to the group, "There's also a mind-body connection, the more you do, the more you can do."

The program is offered at no cost to any cancer survivor in the community.

"We are so pleased to be able to help in the battle and support cancer survivors in our community through this program," said Bridget Philipp, senior director of healthy living and medical fitness at the Y. "Exercise is effective both in treatment and prevention for of all types of diseases, including several types of cancer, particularly colon, and recurrent breast cancers.

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"The Livestrong at the YMCA program provides a safe, effective way for someone to start on their path to more physical activity and healing."

For information, contact Philipp at bphilipp@newcanaanymca.org.