LiveStrong at the Emerson YMCA

Empowerment Network's LiveStrong at the Emerson YMCA on December 2. Front row: Reginald Hill, Annie Hill and Lloyd Johnson. Back row: Mellve Shahid Sr. and instructor Keedra Davis.

There are at least three things a St. Louis-area group of prostate cancers want to eliminate: heart attacks, strokes and canes.

“No more strokes and no more heart attacks in our organization – we are having too many of them,” said Mellve Shahid, founder of The Empowerment Network. “It’s simply because our cancer survivors – they’re watching their PSA numbers, but they’re not watching their overall health numbers.”

Some of those overall numbers include weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting and A1C blood glucose levels, triglyceride levels, waist circumference and body mass index, or BMI.

Shahid said staying healthy and getting fit top of the list for 2020. The way TEN members are working toward that goal is reducing sedentary behaviors and increasing physical activity through the Livestrong at the YMCA program, a free, 12-week, 90-minute class for cancer survivors and their families.

“We are encouraging the cancer survivors in The Empowerment Network to get involved in this great partnership,” he said.

Livestrong began the partnership with the YMCA in 2007 after cancer survivors revealed a main concern about difficulty of returning to physical activity after cancer treatment. Livestrong at the Y is a twice a week, free or low cost exercise program designed to get cancer survivors and their families back into being physically active. More than 71,500 people have participated in the program in 803 communities in the U.S. – including 19 YMCA branches here in the greater St. Louis area.

“We do a little bit of cardio, a little bit of strengthening; definitely stretching, because the whole program is about strengthening the body, core and balance,” Keedra Davis, instructor and Community Health coordinator at the YMCA said, “and flexibility as well.”

She said after the 90 days, typically about 40 to 50 percent of the participants will go ahead and get a membership. Her new class will start January 21.

Livestrong reports on its website that researchers from Yale University and Dana Farber Cancer Institute studied on the impact of the program on participants’ cancer-related outcomes and found that participants experienced significant increases in physical activity, overall quality of life and fitness performance as well as decreases in cancer-related fatigue.

Here in St. Louis, Lloyd Johnson is experiencing similar results. A 14-year prostate cancer survivor who is rebuilding strength, balance and his ability to walk following spinal cord surgery, Livestrong at the Y has been a godsend. He said his body is getting stronger.

“It’s going to take time – that’s what my doctor was telling me,” Johnson said, “but so far, so good. I feel good about it, I feel better, so I am getting there.”

“He is one of the first ones to get there every Monday and Wednesday and he works diligently, and he is getting much stronger now because he’s been exercising those legs,” Shahid said.

Johnson has already decided that when this session ends, he will continue exercising at the Y.

“I will use my SilverSneakers and continue,” Johnson said.

SilverSneakers is an exercise program for older adults age 65 and up of all abilities and is provided by supplemental health plans, like Medicare Advantage plans, known as Medicare Part C and group retiree plans, at no additional cost. At more than 16,000 fitness locations nationwide, SilverSneakers provides access to fitness equipment, group exercise classes, social networking, online education and a sense of community. Find out more at SilverSneakers.com.

In addition to encouraging each other and exercising for disease prevention, Shahid is hoping to inspire brothers who need it to kick the cane, lose weight and to eat better too. He said at TEN’s January support group meeting, an area chef is coming in for a healthy eating presentation.

The Empowerment Network meets the second Saturday of each month. The next one is Saturday, January 11 from 10 a.m. until noon at Metro Village Apartments, located at 3114 Franklin Ave. in St. Louis. The Empowerment Network is located at 6000 West Florissant Ave., 314-385-0998. Find them on Facebook or on the web at http://www.theempowermentnetwork.net.

For more information about the program at the Emerson and Monsanto branches, call Keedra Davis at 367-4646 x. 238. You can also contact your local YMCA branch or call the YMCA Community Health Dept. at 314-421-8838 or email livestrongprogram@gwrymca.org.

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