A new fitness program aims to support folks who have cancer or have been diagnosed with cancer in the past.
Stay Strong is a low-impact, highly motivating program designed to support people’s physical and emotional well-being throughout their cancer journey. This research-based program aims to reduce fatigue, help lessen depression and anxiety, and decrease the chance that some types of cancer will come back.
“What's unique about it is that it's evidence-based, in the sense that there's more and more research showing the benefits of exercise once you have a diagnosis with cancer,” said Judi Clark, who is running the program. “But what makes it particularly unique is that it's open to people with any kind of cancer and it's community-based.”
The 12-session program is being offered at Century House on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., from Sept. 20 to Dec. 8.
“My message to the community is that no matter where you are in your continuum of living with cancer or cancer diagnosis, it's never too late to start exercising, and never too early,” Clark said. “And the research is there that supports better outcomes when you exercise.”
Clark is a certified group instructor and weight trainer with specialized training in leading exercise groups for those living with a cancer diagnosis. This self-paced program is circuit style, followed by relaxed stretching.
Clark said the program is geared to the abilities and needs of participants.
“I call it the red light, yellow light, green light,” she explained. “If you're not feeling up to it, here's a light exercise. If you're feeling not bad today, here's a yellow. If you're feeling gung ho, here's a green. But always, always at your own intensity. And I'll be there circulating, showing technique, checking in. We're going to do feedback at every session. How was that? How did it work for you?”
According to Clark, research shows that different cancers respond to different types of exercise.
“Different cancers have different needs, so I'm running a circuit program where the needs of the greatest number of people will be met,” she said. “So for hormonal-based cancers, you want strength-based, because you lose strength and muscle mass. For lung cancers, you want some aerobics in there. You want aerobics for all of them, truly you do. For neck and throat cancers, we want stretching, as well as the other two. So we're incorporating all of that.”
Registration for the 12-week program is $52.
“We want to keep the fees low to keep it accessible,” Clark said. “If you are on a disability because of cancer, you can't afford to be out doing a lot of things. So I really, really want to make it accessible to people and be able to offer them a program where they're going to get information about the benefits.”
Stay Strong is open to anyone over the age of 18 who has had a cancer diagnosis.
“It doesn't matter if it was two days ago, or 20 years ago,” Clark said. “Research is showing is that once people have the diagnosis of cancer, they tend to drop out of exercise. And I get that; I had cancer myself. I have had breast cancer twice. I have a button that says, ‘Of course, they're fake. The other two were trying to kill me.’”
Clark was also diagnosed with melanoma during the pandemic.
Clark has coached two dragonboat teams – a prostate cancer team and a breast cancer team. She also teaches three fitness classes at Century House.
Now that she’s retired, Stay Strong combines her background in education and fitness.
“I started looking around, and I thought: We need this program,” she said.
To register, call Century House at 604-519-1066. (Century House membership is not required to participate in the Stay Strong program.)