NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center is offering a new, weekly supervised exercise class called CancerFIT to help patients cope with the physical and emotional effects of cancer. A recent addition to the Survivorship Program, this free class is open to all Perlmutter Cancer Center patients before, during, and after their treatment.
The class is helping people like Tina Fisher, a patient who exercised regularly at the gym until she was diagnosed with breast cancer six months ago. As part of her treatment, she had a double mastectomy, or surgical removal of both breasts, and 12 weekly chemotherapy sessions.
“I lost my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows due to chemotherapy,” Fisher says. “I did not want to go to the gym where people could look at me and think that I must be sick.”
“Health and wellness are key for anyone, especially for those with a cancer diagnosis,” says Amanda Bontempo, MS, RD, board-certified oncology dietitian and program manager of wellness and survivorship at Perlmutter Cancer Center. “Physical activity can help patients manage physical side effects, as well as help with psychological recovery. We hope that this exercise class makes our patients feel better and improves their overall mood.”
The 45-minute CancerFIT classes are supervised by licensed physical therapists and run by physical therapy students who design the exercises based on current and emerging research. The classes are small and are tailored to the participants’ individual fitness levels. They include cardiovascular exercises, followed by resistance and strength training, and then a post-workout stretch, all set to a varied music playlist.
Fisher went to her first CancerFIT class six days after her last chemotherapy treatment, and though she felt sick during the class, her instructors made sure she wasn’t discouraged from coming back the following week.
“The trainers sat me down and gave me juice and crackers before putting me in a taxi to go home. Later that night, they emailed me to check if I was OK,” she says.
Like Fisher, many patients have found the program beneficial and appreciate the one-on-one support from trainers. Although a tailored approach, CancerFIT does not replace physical therapy or the individualized rehabilitation services given to each patient through Rusk Rehabilitation.
“We want patients to see that this is a safe environment,” says Marleen I. Meyers, MD, director of the Survivorship Program. “Being physically active is so important for those with a cancer diagnosis, and we want to remove barriers that may prevent people from getting involved.”