Submitted by Sharon Spalding, Cancer Exercise Specialist, Augusta Health Fitness
Stop by the medical fitness space of Augusta Health on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons, and you may be surprised to see and hear some of the participants. They might be moving slowly, or they may be going at a brisk pace. They could have lost their hair or have a pretty scarf on their head. You may hear them talking about how they are feeling or discussing the side effects they’re experiencing from treatment.
Augusta Health Fitness offers a Cancer Rx program twice a week for cancer survivors going through treatment or up to a year after their cancer treatment has ended. The Cancer Rx program has been in existence for five years and continues to grow. During their 10-week program, participants have total use of the center anytime it is open, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays they have a dedicated thirty-minute session with an ACSM Clinical Exercise Physiologist who is also an ACSM Certified Cancer Specialist. Patients are paired with another cancer survivor in their time slot, and this often leads to sharing of common experiences about their cancer journey.
For many patients, this may be their first experience with a gym or fitness center. The session includes a warm up, strength training, balance work and flexibility. They are encouraged to meet the physical activity guideline of 150 minutes per week while using Augusta Health Fitness. An initial fitness assessment and client consultation determines goals and those areas where a client wishes to focus their training. Participants gain cardiorespiratory fitness and strength. Perhaps even more importantly, clients report that they better tolerate the side effects of treatment and have more energy to get through their day.
Following their program, many participants take advantage of the discounted membership to Augusta Health Fitness and decide to join as regular members. Many also end up in Shenandoah Valley Beat Cancer Boot Camp which was established by the Augusta Health cancer exercise trainers through an Augusta Health Community Action Grant in 2016. Augusta Health wants to provide support to cancer survivors through all stages of their wellness journey. Offering the Cancer Rx program helps survivors to know that fitness is indeed medicine for them also.