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YMCA program helps cancer survivors get active again

A bout with cancer can leave survivors emotionally and physically drained, making it difficult to return to getting regular exercise.

YMCA of the USA and LiveStrong partnered in 2007 to develop a 12-week physical activity program for cancer survivors. The program has served more than 60,000 people in 707 communities across the county, according to the YMCA website.

A new round of sessions starts Sept. 24 at the Y in Woodbury. We asked Jojo Goulding, program manager for Group Exercise and ForeverWell, to explain what LiveStrong is all about.

What is LiveStrong at the YMCA, and who is it for?

Jojo GouldingThe LiveStrong Program at the Woodbury YMCA is a free 12-week group training program open to cancer survivors who are either still in treatment or are up to 10 years out. This group of eight to 12 participants work on range of motion, cardiovascular, strength, balance and flexibility. This program is open to all. You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to participate.

Why is physical activity important for cancer survivors?

Physical activity helps both mind and body. With exercise comes positivity which then in turn helps cancer survivors have more energy to continue their road to better health. Stress is very common to us all but especially cancer survivors. They have big hurdles to get over and keeping positive is key to their success. Many oncologists have become aware of the LiveStrong program and are suggesting it to their patients.

What does a typical session look like?

To start the 12 week session, participants will take a pre-assessment to evaluate their current physical status. The program in individualized to each participant's needs. The group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m., and they are strongly encouraged to come and work out at least one more time during each week.

We slowly start building their stamina by teaching them the different cardiovascular machines along with introducing them to some of our beginning level group exercise classes. Balance tends to be an issue that many cancer survivors struggle with after treatment so we work on that consistently throughout the 12 weeks.

At approximately the third week, we set them up on our strength-based machines and discuss proper form and technique. They will also take part in yoga, pilate reformer as well as other pieces of equipment as we deem helpful for the group. At the end of the 12 weeks we reassess to show them the steps they have taken to improve their health.

How have past participants benefited from the program?

This will be our seventh session of this program. The changes we have seen are very impressive. Participants leave the program so excited about how they feel both mentally and physically. I can confidently say that 100 percent of our participants have been thrilled with their changes. It encourages them to continue this healthy lifestyle and helps them feel like they are stronger each day.

This program is also a way of developing a bond between others in similar circumstances. Every cancer survivor has their own journey but being with others who they can relate to and share stories with help creates a healthier mind and body.

Our next session begins on Sept. 24 and we are currently taking applications for the program. Future participants just need to stop off at the Woodbury YMCA and request the application forms or contact me at

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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