Guest Column: Program designed to improve survivors’ lives

Published 10:49 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

Live United by Dennis Dieser

The Albert Lea Family Y became a provider of the nationally recognized Livestrong at the YMCA program in February 2016, thanks to an implementation grant from YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the Y’s national resource office, in partnership with the Livestrong Foundation. This grant helped with the initial program training and implementation while the Albert Lea Family Y was responsible for raising the balance of funds required to sustain these efforts and offer the 12-week exercise program free of charge to survivors.

Dennis Dieser

Livestrong at the YMCA is an evidence-based program based on best practices for cancer survivor exercise. The goals of the program are to empower adult cancer survivors to improve functional capacity and to increase their quality of life through an organized program of fitness and strength offered in a supportive, small-group setting. The 12-week physical activity and well-being initiative helps people affected by cancer reach their holistic health goals. Additionally, programs like Livestrong at the YMCA are part of the Y’s overall commitment to help cancer survivors recover in a safe and supportive environment.

Email newsletter signup

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 14 million people in the U.S. today are cancer survivors — those living with, through and beyond a cancer diagnosis. Historically, health care providers instructed cancer patients to rest and avoid activity or exertion, but studies now demonstrate the importance of physical activity for cancer survivors. Research shows exercise is the simplest way for cancer survivors to reduce fatigue, improve their mood and bounce back more quickly from the debilitating effects of cancer treatment. The Y is the perfect collaborator for the program because of its national reach, commitment to meeting the needs of all community members and history of program innovation in support of health and wellness.

The Albert Lea Family Y is currently running its fifth session of Livestrong at the YMCA. Through the program great community is created within the class. There has been much progress and growth of all individuals in the class. The Albert Lea Family Y will be offering a new class in January. The program runs for 12 weeks. It meets once per week with certified instructors who have completed specialized training in the elements of cancer, rehabilitative exercise and supportive cancer care. Criteria to participate are commitment to the 12-week program, medical release for participation from your doctor, completion of the Y’s intake form/survey/functional assessment and give permission for Livestrong at the YMCA staff to contact your physician or health care provider as needed. The program is free for all cancer survivor participants.

The Cancer Center and the Albert Lea Cancer Support Group have been strong advocates and supporters of the program.

If anyone you know needs cancer support, please visit For more information about our program and services contact the Albert Lea Family Y.

Dennis Dieser is the executive director of the Albert Lea Family Y.