at the YMCA

A top concern among cancer survivors is the difficulty of returning to physical activity after treatment. LiveSTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week physical activity program designed to get survivors back on their feet. Participants experience significant increases in physical activity, overall quality of life and fitness performance as well as decreases in cancer-related fatigue.


Program Summary A cancer survivor is an individual who has been diagnosed with cancer from the time of diagnosis throughout the remainder of their life. Over the past several decades, the number of cancer survivors has dramatically increased to nearly 14 million people in the United States today. People live longer after a cancer diagnosis because of advances in early detection and treatment.

Historically, health care providers have instructed cancer patients to rest and avoid activity or exertion. However, research has demonstrated the importance of physical activity after a cancer diagnosis, during treatment, and beyond. Physical activity is not only safe and possible but can improve individuals’ physical functioning and quality of life, and reduce cancer-related fatigue.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is an evidence-informed program based on the findings of studies which show the safety and benefits of physical activity for cancer survivors. In 2010, the American College of Sports Medicine published guidelines for cancer survivors engaging in physical activity.

The LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program adheres to these guidelines. The goals of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program are to empower adult cancer survivors to improve their functional capacity and to increase their quality of life through an organized program of fitness and strength. The program is a 12-week, small-group physical activity program led by specially trained LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Instructors. Through individual personal assessments which take into account the medical and social histories of the participants, these Instructors create a physical activity plan tailored to each 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013.



Peer-to-Peer Support

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Instructors facilitate peer-to-peer support in each group by helping groups of survivors share their stories and perspectives. In addition to benefits from physical activity, cancer survivors enrolled in the program build authentic relationships with the group members who support their holistic development.

There is a high degree of positive interaction in these relationships, particularly verbal interactions and active listening, and connections are made with participants as individuals as well as part of a larger group. These communities among cancer survivors guide them through safe physical activity, helping them build supportive relationships and reduce their stress to improve their quality of life.

Two Sessions Per Week

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA participants meet 2 times per week for 90 minutes each session. Generally the ratio is 1 Instructor to 6 participants. Prior to week 1, Y intake staff members meet with each participant one-on-one to explain the program and gather health and demographic information. Instructors perform fitness assessments of participants in weeks 1 and 12 and, using motivational interviewing skills, use the assessment results to create an individualized exercise program for each participant. The Y uses “Listen First” to train its staff in motivational interviewing, a counseling approach focused on facilitating and engaging intrinsic motivation in order to change behavior.

Exercise program designs include recommendations for the starting number of strength-training repetitions, sets, weight, and duration of each activity. The individualized programs also include exercise and equipment modifications/adaptations that may be needed to maintain safety and effectiveness. Instructors also teach and demonstrate utilization of equipment, correct physical activity technique, safety considerations, and completion of the physical activity log sheet. Instructors make minor adjustments to physical activity programs as needed in response to participant adaptations or tolerance to activity per session.


LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a program designed to treat the whole person and Instructors and staff are selected to lead the program based on their ability to work with participants to address all of their well-being needs-body, mind, and spirit.

Since the program creates a physical activity plan tailored to each participant, Instructors bring two important aspects to the program: an “exercise expert” has the understanding of and ability to address the unique needs and concerns of cancer survivors, resulting from their cancer diagnoses and treatments; and, a “relationship builder” has understanding, empathy, and the ability to connect with and develop relationships with and among cancer survivors.

Your Y. Your Team.

Y-USA support teams train Project Managers and Instructors to use motivational interviewing skills, host team meetings, and synthesize learnings across all Y locations. They must also be skilled at communication with senior leadership to report on progress and challenges. Project Managers facilitate staff engagement and assume ownership of the program to drive the work deeply into the Y and access support when needed.

Project Managers also actively participate in conference calls, complete online progress reports, and monitor and share progress toward goals. Project Managers are crucial to developing and sustaining referral networks critical to participant enrollment. They build and maintain the relationships needed to recruit and enroll cancer survivors in the program.



The goal of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program is to empower adult cancer survivors to improve their functional capacity and to increase their quality of life through organized group fitness and strength. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week, small-group physical activity program led by specially trained YMCA Instructors.

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