Fitness and Strength Conditioning for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Local Program Review: Living Strong Living Well at Northwest YMCA

I had a chance to try this great program—held at Cupertino’s Northwest YMCA (NWYMCA).

Living Strong Living Well (LSLW) is a 12-week small-group strength and fitness training program for adult cancer survivors who have recently become de-conditioned/fatigued from their treatment and/or disease. The goal is to help patients build muscle mass and muscle strength, increase flexibility and endurance, improve functional ability and quality of life.

Research is showing that physical activity may decrease recurrence and increase survivorship for cancer patients.

For 10 years, LSLW has been offered as a joint program by Stanford, in association with the YMCA, FREE of charge. The next session at the NWYMCA begins on Jan. 23. The class formally meets two times per week for 75 minutes each time. 

At the first class, we each shared our diagnoses and what we hoped to get from the program. While geared towards those who have recently finished cancer treatment, many of the participants were still undergoing treatments including chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Participants came from all walks of life, men and women of all ages. In my session, there happened to be only one gentleman, Richard, but since participants are allowed to identify a support person to accompany them, a couple of my classmates’ husbands also dropped in for some of our sessions. Classmate Shirley explained that it was her husband wanting to go work out that helped her achieve perfect attendance by talking her into going to class when she was tired and considering skipping class. 

YMCA offers LSLW graduates the opportunity to join at the end of the session, waving the enrollment fee. Program graduates who become members of the YMCA are invited to join the LSLW group sessions and Dana regularly attended and shared her perspective and advice as a cancer survivor and LSLW graduate.

We were led by two of the Y’s personal trainers, Trish and Allan, with occasional help from Ron, another of the Y’s trained instructors. We met as a group for warm-ups, cool down/stretching, and a variety of mini-classes that introduced us to a wide variety of exercise equipment (Bosu®, foam rollers, gliders, yoga balls, etc.) and classes taught at the YMCA (step, stretch and balance, TRX, etc.)

Each of us had an individual circuit training program, with the trainers setting us up on each machine and helping us to select the weights to start with in our strength training program. We each progressed at own rate for the remainder of the twelve week session. 

Beyond meeting twice a week as a class, we were allowed to make full use of the facilities including any of the regularly scheduled Y fitness classes during the 12 weeks of the session. The NWYMCA offers one of the most comprehensive gyms in our area with its indoor pool, numerous group fitness classes, ample variety and quantity of exercise equipment.

One feature I particularly liked was the Fitlinxx system. The circuit training machines were all linked to this system. Each time you logon, it displays your programmed weight settings, counts your repetitions and guides you through the correct motion with basic trainer-like feedback via a digital display <beep beep> “go slower”, <beep beep> “Don’t let the weights touch”, <beep beep> “Good job!”.

We took a balance, agility and strength assessment at beginning and end of the session. Everyone had some improvements in one or more areas.

The last day we met, we had a potluck gathering and reflected on our 12 weeks together. Everyone reported a positive improvement in their fitness and strength.

The program was everything it advertised to be and more. Besides what we each gained as individuals, it was both comforting and motivating to know that everyone in the session was a cancer survivor and going through similar issues.

For more information:



NWYMCA is located at 20803 Alves Dr.



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