HEALTHY LIVING: 4 things to know about the YMCA Livestrong program for cancer survivors

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WALLINGFORD – For a decade, cancer survivors have returned to physical activity through the nationwide Livestrong fitness initiative offered at several local YMCA branches, including Wallingford.

Here are four things to know about the program from the team at the Wallingford YMCA.

Health Benefits

According to the American Cancer Society, physical activity and a healthy diet is recommended for cancer survivors to help prevent re-occurring disease.

“We have goals of improving the participants’ strength, endurance, flexibility and balance,” said Eileen Farmer, program coordinator at the Wallingford YMCA. 

The program teaches survivors things like cardiovascular and weight training. By staying fit, participants may be able to recover faster and even do physical activities they never tried before.

“We introduce group fitness classes... things that maybe intimidated them in the past or they were just curious about,” Farmer said. 

The 12-week program is results-based, with an assessment at the beginning and end.

“We’re seeing less re-occurence with our exercisers,” Farmer said. “They’re also realizing that they have overall better health from just being more active.”


Participants work out in the 75 minute Livestrong classes twice a week. The co-ed classes are open to anyone who is over the age of 18 and has had any type of cancer. There is a morning class and evening class.

Sheryl Harle, a survivor and Kensington resident, is one of the instructors.

“I was a participant as a survivor and I decided that it makes that great of an impact on people, myself included, that I wanted to continue working with them,” she said.

After the program, Harle said she was able to do physical activities, including mowing the lawn, which she previously did not have the strength to do. As an instructor she has seen similar results.

“We’ve seen people come in with walkers or canes and leave without them,” she said. 

The classes include 20 to 30 minutes of cardio followed by strength exercises and activities like Pilates or Zumba. A nutrition class is also part of the program.


More and more survivors have expressed interest in joining the initiative statewide in the last several years. Farmer said the YMCA has a waiting list during different times of the year.

Eric Hutchinson, director of communications and marketing at the Wallingford YMCA, said about 50 survivors complete the program each year.

The free program is supported by YMCA fundraising throughout the year. The recent Fishbein/YMCA road race raised approximately $40,000 for the program.


Other local YMCAs that participate in the Livestrong program include:

Cheshire Community YMCA, 961 South Main St., Cheshire

Southington Community YMCA, 29 High St., Southington

Wheeler Regional Family YMCA, 149 Farmington Ave., Plainville

Greater Waterbury YMCA, 136 West Main at., Waterbury
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