Using Wellness Programs to Support Cancer Patients and Survivors

Commercial Fitness

Using Wellness Programs to Support Cancer Patients and Survivors

The measurable impact of exercise on cancer patients and survivors is relatively new but growing.

One of the most basic recommendations made by experts within the industry who work with cancer survivors and patients is to engage in regular physical activity. At least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is ideal, along with strength training at least twice a week for cancer patients and those trying to prevent cancer. The key is to avoid inactivity.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speakers

Colleen Doyle is the Managing Director of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the American Cancer Society. She is a registered dietician who has worked in the health promotion industry for over 20 years. She has extensive public speaking experience and has co-authored and contributed to a variety of health and nutrition books.

Mike Alpert is the President and CEO at the Claremont Club in Los Angeles. He has more than 20 years of experience in the Health and Wellness industry.

Kate Wels is a Personal Trainer and Cancer Exercise Specialist at the Avila Bay Athletic Club in California.

Patsy Mclean is the Director of Group Exercise at the Adelaide Club in Toronto, Canada.

Research shows that being active post diagnosis has a tremendous impact on the rate of recovery and survival. Breast cancer and colon cancer survivors have shown a positive impact from safe and feasible physical activity.

The American Cancer Society’s nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors recommend the following:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Achieve a dietary pattern that emphasizes plant foods and whole grains

Using Wellness Programs to Support Cancer Patients and Survivors

Wellness Programs

At his club in Los Angeles, Mike Alpert has implemented a 13-week free program that treats the whole family. His club averages 15 to 18 people in each group. The program mainly concentrates on women diagnosed with breast or uterine cancer, but also caters to men and children. Partnerships with hospitals and medical centers are important for these programs.

Fundraising efforts can be used to fund the programs, along with grants and donations. Pediatric and young adult programs aim to be fun and include strength and cardio activities.

Kate Wels is part of a non-profit, free cancer wellness program called Cancer Well-Fit. It employs fundraising efforts and grants to financially sustain it. The program encompasses strength training, cardio, and other physical activities. A nutritionist and a cook are available during the program to provide dietary support for the patients.

The expertise from oncologists and the medical community are particularly needed as you tailor a program for the client’s specific and unique condition. Their support is crucial for success.

Doctors work with the program to determine which activity would be most suitable for specific patients. They also offer exercises that are specific for cancer survivors and patients. Additional programs include yoga and group exercise for patients. Afterwards, the patients are invited to join the club at a reduced cost, or they leave with a comprehensive program that can be continued at home. It’s important for the club staff to follow up and see how the patients are progressing with the program.

Tips for Starting a Cancer Wellness Program

Exercise provides survivors and patients with energy and strength. It helps patients tolerate treatment, endure side effects, and increase their mental fortitude. Before admitting a patient to a wellness program, an extensive assessment is performed including blood, heart, cholesterol, nutrition, and medical history. Trainers involved in the program must receive cancer educational information and training on cancer treatment therapies. Small classes support clients while recognizing a client’s limitations.

Approach clinics, hospitals and cancer support centers with pamphlets, information and a plan of execution. Engage with the community. Talk with doctors, nutritionists/cooks, and organizations about their level of involvement or interest in wellness programs.

Trial and error occurs when initiating these programs. It may take some time and effort, but the benefits will outweigh the obstacles.