LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA Comes to the Valley!

Bravo! to the Valley of the Sun YMCAs that are bringing “LIVESTRONG® at the Y” to cancer survivors in Phoenix and our surrounding communities. If you live in Ahwatukee, you can be participating in this free, 12-week exercise program next week; similar programs at the YMCAs in Chandler/Gilbert and in North Scottsdale (Desert Foothills) are starting in September. Scottsdale’s more midtown YMCA (on Shea Blvd) hopes to launch the program early next year.

“LIVESTRONG® at the Y” is the product of a 2007 partnership between the YMCA and the LIVESTRONG® Foundation. Vikee Diaz, who helped pilot the effort at Chandler/Gilbert, explains the key program components:

  • 12 weeks, twice a week, from 75 to 90 minutes per session
  • YMCA-trained exercise leaders with specialized knowledge about cancer survivorship
  • Activities vary, depending on each YMCA’s implementation, but typically try to include everything from Zumba, to water exercise, to lessons with fitness equipment
  • Free for 12 weeks, with full scholarships for survivors who want to continue

Diaz said that most participants found the camaraderie of exercising with other survivors to be critically important. “Now they have somewhere to go, the knowledge they need, and friends they can exercise with,” she said.

The scientific support for the effectiveness of the YMCA program was trumpeted at the 2015 ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) by Melinda Irwin,* a recognized leader in exercise research. Dr. Irwin has long championed the proven benefits of exercise for cancer survivors; she also has been a vocal advocate for establishing exercise programs designed for cancer survivors, especially breast cancer survivors. Here are the positive conclusions from Dr. Irwin’s 2015 presentation:

Conclusions: The LIVESTRONG® program was effective in increasing physical fitness and “quality of life” in cancer survivors…. this program could provide a platform to increase physical activity in thousands of cancer survivors across the USA.

If you can travel to the Chandler/Gilbert, Ahwatukee, or Desert Foothills YMCAs, contact them now and ask for more information about how to get involved. Ask for Vikee Diaz (Chandler/Gilbert, 480-899-9622), Debbie Mitchell (Ahwatukee, 480-759-6762), or Sharon Lynn (Desert Foothills, 480-596-9622).

If those locations aren’t close enough to you, contact your local YMCA and encourage them to initiate their own “LIVESTRONG® at the Y” program. Here is the full description from the Valley of the Sun YMCA website:

The research-based program offers people affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to participate in physical and social activities focused on strengthening the whole person. Participants work with Y staff trained in supportive cancer care to achieve their goals such as building muscle mass and strength; increasing flexibility and endurance; and improving confidence and self-esteem. In addition to physical benefits, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA focuses on the emotional well-being of survivors and their families by providing a supportive community where people impacted by cancer can connect during treatment and beyond. By focusing on the whole person and not the disease, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA helps people move beyond cancer in spirit, mind and body.

LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA is a free 12-week small-group fitness program for adult cancer survivors. We focus on improving cardiovascular fitness, strength and balance to regain overall health. Classes meet twice a week for 75 minutes. You will receive a free Y membership for the session’s duration.

Program Goals:

  • Improve energy levels and self-esteem
  • Build muscle mass and strength
  • Increase flexibility and endurance
  • Improve ability to do everyday tasks
  • Develop an ongoing fitness plan to continue practicing a healthy lifestyle.

If you are a cancer survivor, or know someone who is, please contact:

To read more about Dr. Melinda Irwin’s 2015 presentation, go to

*Dr. Melinda Irwin is Co-Program Leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Yale Cancer Center, and Deputy Director (Public Health) in the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation. She is a prominent leader in the field of lifestyle factors and chronic diseases. Her research over the past 15 years has focused on randomized trials of exercise and weight loss on biological markers, treatment side effects and quality of life in cancer patients and survivors.



Nancy L Howe

I was a daily exerciser and I ate my fruits and vegetables, but in 1997, I was diagnosed with cancer anyway. I experienced first-hand the benefits of physical activity during treatment and beyond. That was my "Aha!" moment. I left my corporate career, earned my masters at Arizona State University studying exercise science, and joined the staff of University of Arizona cancer researchers in 2005. In 2013, I earned my Cancer Exercise Specialist certification from the University of Northern Colorado, Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute, and founded Strong Cancer Recovery. In 2017, I joined the Arizona State University Cancer Prevention and Integrative Medicine research team, and entered the PhD program at ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation. My research focus is breast-cancer-related lymphedema, including the preventive and ameliorative benefits of physical activity.