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Fitness & Physical Wellness Research

Exercise and the expenditure of energy may be an important preventative factor for some forms of cancer (Key, Schatzkin, Willett & Allen, 2004). Additionally, moderate levels of exercise and physical activity have strong correlations to improved recovery and longer-term survivorship in some cancer diagnoses (Lemanne, Cassileth, & Gubili, 2013). As most oncology patients would attest, the treatment side-effects of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can be dramatic and severe. In particular, the cognitive effects of chemotherapy, such as loss of focus and difficulty with memory retrieval and  recall, sometimes referred to as “chemo brain,” can be very troubling and hard to treat. Recent research has purported that not only can physical exercise decrease the severity of cognitive impairment related to chemotherapy, it can decrease the risk of falls and minor accidents, improve emotional health, and improve the overall quality of life (Fitzpatrick, Edgar, & Holcroft, 2012).

Unfortunately only 26% of oncology patients meet the suggested criteria for physical activity (Peddle, Au, & Courneya, 2008). The good news is that research has found that in as little as eight weeks oncology patients can make significant health improvements and physical gains, such as weight gain/loss, increased strength, improved mobility, and cardiovascular volume increase (Drake, Falzer, Xistris, Robinson, & Roberge, 2004).

Based upon the gap between the pressing fitness needs and the availability of exercise programs for the typical oncology patient, the Cancer Support Center has increased its programming in this area. Individuals have access to multiple Yoga, Tai Chi, Massage, Dance/Movement, and Walking classes that are spread out Monday through Saturday and are all free of charge. Each class is led by qualified instructors who have multiple years of experience working with chronic physical health issues such as cancer. Each program is capped in size so that each instructor can have ample one-on-one time to personally assist each member so that he or she can adjust the activity to a level of difficulty that is best suited to diagnosis, stage, and personal ability.

Currently we are looking to expand our access to fitness programs by partnering with some of the agencies in the local townships that offer yoga, swimming, walking, aerobics, dance, and cycling classes. Additionally, each of our classes is often offered adjacent to other nutritional, counseling, or support programs.