SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

June 18, 2015 12:30 ET

Pilot study takes cancer rehab to the community

University of Calgary partners with University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services and YMCA to deliver community-based cancer exercise programs

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - June 18, 2015) - A new provincial partnership will explore ways of improving the health and fitness of cancer survivors through a first-of-its-kind, community-based, exercise program.

Over the course of 24 weeks, 80 cancer survivors in Calgary and Edmonton will take part in specialized exercise and personal training classes that will help researchers determine the benefits and feasibility of offering such programming across Alberta. It's part of a pilot study called Alberta Cancer Exercise (ACE) a partnership between the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and the YMCA. The ACE initiative reflects evidence that shows a tailored exercise program improves the health, fitness, and energy levels of cancer survivors.

Corrine Swanson, a participant in the Calgary BEAUTY (Breast cancer patients Engaging in Activity while Undergoing Treatment) program at the Saddletowne YMCA says that she felt isolated after her diagnosis, and is looking forward to participating in ACE. "Being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I felt numbed… not sure what to do," says Swanson. "After reading all the helpful material; the BEAUTY Program was appealing, knowing that I would receive expert advice to help get my life back! It is a positive way to strengthen your mind and body, and show that you are not alone."

The initial BEAUTY pilot at the YMCA was funded by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Prairies Chapter. For the past four years, the program has been funded by Wings of Hope. This new ACE funding will allow continued development of the program with the YMCA.

Kinesiology researcher Nicole Culos-Reed (PhD) has been focused on bringing cancer and exercise programs to the community. Besides an innovative Yoga for cancer survivors and patients DVD, and the BEAUTY program at the YMCA, she has also facilitated the creation of three prostate exercise programs in the Killarney, Southland and Village Square Leisure Centres beginning this fall, part of the national True NTH Prostate Cancer Canada funded initiative to promote Lifestyle Management in prostate cancer survivors.

"Improved access to programs is the key element of the ACE program, as well as the other community initiatives we are building. Eliminating barriers leads to improved adherence and better outcomes for cancer survivors, both physically and psychologically," explains Culos-Reed. "This work increases access to physical activity programming for cancer survivors within their own community."

The pilot ACE program at the Saddletowne YMCA is continuing to recruit breast cancer survivors, and the researchers are exploring the possibility of expanding the program to include head and neck as well as neuro-oncology programming. Margaret McNeely, PhD, an assistant professor of physical therapy at the U of A's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, is co-leader of the ACE program. She says the most important element about the program is that it places the emphasis on wellness, not illness. "The goal of this pilot is to create more opportunities for cancer patients and survivors to exercise or get back into exercise in a setting that feels comfortable and welcoming," says McNeely. "Cancer survivors have told us they don't want a hospital-based program; they want exercise offered in a location that focuses on wellness, not illness, and where they can work on their recovery and getting better."

In both cities, the researchers have trained YMCA exercise specialists to understand the needs of survivors who've battled cancer and those still receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments, using a cancer and exercise training program developed by Culos-Reed.

"The BEAUTY program provides an important opportunity for breast cancer patients to access lifestyle support during their return-to-wellness journey," says Saddletowne YMCA General Manager Brigitte Edwards. "YMCA Calgary identified an equally-great opportunity to enhance that experience by providing the program in patients' local communities. By situating the program in a recreation setting, we hope to increase accessibility, enhance social connection and improve survivor outcomes and quality of life."

Study participants will be split into two groups -- one receiving standard care that will serve as a control, and one group that will be assigned to supervised group exercise classes focusing on strength, balance, aerobic exercise and flexibility.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

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Contact Information

  • Media Contact
    Donald McSwiney
    Director of Communications, Faculty of Kinesiology
    University of Calgary
    W: 403.220.7652
    C: 403.852.7652