Local cancer center using exercise to help survivors recover

Local cancer center using exercise to help survivors recover. (Patrick Hagan WWMT)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Using exercise to recover from cancer as part of a new program though the West Michigan Cancer Center and Area Athletic Centers.

Studies show that those who exercise regularly decrease their chances of getting cancer and for those who have already beat the disease it does so much more, which is where “Survivorcise" comes in.

Penny Beals, a breast cancer survivor, is attending one of her numerous yoga classes of the week.

Beals said, "I feel great. I feel healthy. I feel strong. I have more flexibility."

The stretches and breathing have become her outlet since battling breast cancer two years ago, but it hasn't always been this way.

She said, "Heck no. I was not that kind of girl. I was not that person."

Beals was part of the first group of the Survivorcise class in September 2015.

Survivorcise is a partnership between the West Michigan Cancer Center, Borgess Athletic Center, Bronson Athletic Center and the YMCA.

The class is only for West Michigan Cancer patients who have completed their treatments and rotates between the three athletic centers.

Becky Jones, a nurse practitioner who helps run the free 12-week program, said it helps those who have completed treatments take back their lives.

Jones said, "The most common issue facing cancer survivors a lot of times is fatigue. We've looked at the results from our patients and they've grown stronger, they've had improvement in balance and cardiovascular fitness but they also say they feel less tired."

Dr. Sanja Kaluza, an Oncologist with the West Michigan Cancer Center, said their studies show working out can help keep the cancer from coming back again.

Kaluza said, "We know that exercise is extremely important in preventing certain types of cancers."

For Beals, trips to the gym made her healthier than she was before her treatments.

Beals said, "It made a world of a difference."

And this is her new way of life.

Beals said, "I will never not do this."

A lifestyle that Kaluza would like to see become more common for all her patients.

Cancer center doctors hope to expand the programs to other cities beyond Kalamazoo.

Kaluza said, "Maybe in the future all our cancer centers will have a gym, instructors who are qualified to work with our patients."

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