YMCA launches program for cancer survivors

GUILDERLAND — A new fitness program for cancer survivors will launch at the Guilderland branch of the YMCA in February.

Livestrong at the YMCA is a nation-wide program, but, according to Ryan Venter, executive director of the Guilderland YMCA, the first local branch to sponsor it was in Schenectady. Guilderland will be the second branch in the Capital Region to offer it to the community.

For the Livestrong program’s purposes, cancer survival begins at the moment of diagnosis, said Nancy Gildersleeve, director of Healthy Living for the YMCA. Anyone, at any stage of their “cancer journey,” she said, is welcome, and, though it is sponsored by the YMCA, the program is free of charge to the participants.

The Schenectady YMCA’s Livestrong group includes people ranging in age from 21 to 72, with all different types of cancer, Gildersleeve said.

The group, consisting of eight to 12 participants and two trainers, meets twice a week, for an hour-and-a-half, for 12 weeks.

The first hour of each meeting is for physical activity, and the 30 minutes following are for stretching and reflecting.

“You see a support group start to evolve during the stretching and reflecting period,” Gildersleeve said.

The size of the group is capped at 12 participants so that the trainers can spend time creating individualized plans for each member, based on their goals and their abilities.

“The purpose of the program is to help these individuals find a new normal,” said Gildersleeve. “Maybe they had health and wellness goals pre-diagnosis and are having trouble re-establishing goals post-diagnosis.”

The progress that can be seen over the 12 weeks, she said, in strength, flexibility, and endurance, is “remarkable.”

The Guilderland program will begin in February, and Venter said the staff members are currently being trained in what type of physical activities they’ll be providing, as well as how to provide emotional support.

Venter said the Guilderland YMCA has already received many phone calls from people expressing interest in the program.

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