Moving For Life DanceExercise for Cancer Recovery

Contact Name: 
Martha Eddy
Name of Institution, Organization or Community Where the Project Was Implemented: 
Moving For Life, Inc.
Description of Project Setting: 

Moving for Life classes are contracted with hospitals, community agencies, public libraries, dance studios, and public spaces (health fair, parks etc).

Quality of Life
Target Population: 
Cancer Site: 
Project Description: 

Moving For Life DanceExercise for Cancer Recovery is a carefully tailored, physician-endorsed exercise program for people in cancer treatment or survivorship. The classes, which are set to music, provide movements that address treatment effects. Movements are designed to increase energy to offset fatigue, decrease swelling to help manage lymphedema, burn calories to help manage weight and build strength to maintain or build muscle mass. The program and DVD are free for cancer patients and survivors but limited based on existing supplies.

Problem or Issue the Project Was Designed to Address or Improve: 

Dr. Eddy identified a lack of aerobic exercise programs for breast cancer patients in 1999, based on a review of the research. While there were a few stretching and strengthening classes, few opportunities at that time existed to address a major side-effect of cancer treatment: fatigue. Dr. Eddy, an exercise physiologist, dance educator and somatic movement therapist decided to design a suitable and fun program as tribute to her mother, the Reverend Dr. Margaret Eddy, who loved to dance, practiced yoga, and died of colon cancer in 1990.

Difficulties Encountered in Planning, Implementing, Evaluating or Sustaining the Project: 
As a small, educational wellness non-profit cancer care agency, major challenges have been sustainability and capacity to adequately promote the program. Volunteers established Moving For Life (MFL) over 12 years (1999-2011). Community partnerships with Gilda's Club and SHARE Cancer Support expanded MFLs reach. Programming increased in 2012 through grant funding from LIVESTRONG and Komen Greater NYC. Over time, MFL received hospital contracts (e.g. the Mount Sinai West Comprehensive Breast Center, NYU Langone Medical Center and Mount Sinai Beth Israel). MFL expanded its programs, developed an organizational infrastructure and formed an advisory council consisting of breast cancer surgeons, dance experts, business professionals, psychologists and oncologists. MFL team members spoke in public venues to patients, physicians, oncological nurses and social workers about the role of exercise in overcoming treatment effects in different types of cancer recovery. In 2014 MFL became its own non-profit organization. Our first classes were provided by Dr. Eddy and two of her mentees gratis. There are over 21 Moving For Life Certified Instructors (MFLCI) in NY, NJ, Ohio, San Francisco, Kansas, and Vancouver, with more growing each year. However, given the prevalence of cancer there is a need for more MFLCIs to meet patient demand.
Project Successes: 
1. We created the Dance To Recovery DVD which helped the agency reach more cancer patients and survivors. 2. We provide free classes for cancer and diabetes prevention in the Queens Library system. 3. Donors sponsor free Moving For Life classes in each of the New York City’s five boroughs.
Helpful Information Before the Project Started: 
When launching a program, it is critical to have a group of patients and survivors ready to attend classes. Obtaining health care providers’ buy-in can help bolster the reach of the program, because they can encourage patient and survivor participation. The lectures [described above] enticed participation and helped obtain healthcare professional buy-in. Evidence from the American Cancer Society and the American College of Sports Medicine has demonstrated the important role of exercise in health promotion. LIVESTRONG's research has emphasized the importance of exercise (and nutrition) in reducing cancer occurrence by approximately 50%.
Project Significance: 
Patient navigators can contribute to the important work of managing treatment effects and preventing recurrence by knowing about the importance of exercise and available exercise programming to help patients and survivors, such as Moving For Life. Our new book, Moving For Life's Guidebook for Safe Exercise During Cancer Recovery is one resource.
Lessons Learned for Patients, Caregivers and/or Communities: 
Patients and caregivers can be advocates for a healthy lifestyle! If there are no exercise programs for survivors in your area, advocate for new, safe exercise programs. Teachers should help patients learn about their bodies and adjust movement to be gentle and careful. Consider showing the MFL DVD to your patient support groups.
Lessons Learned for Clinicians or Health Care Professionals: 
Clinicians can motivate patients to attend classes or get out and move. Heath care professionals can help patients by knowing about available resources and sharing that information with patients and caregivers - or advocating to bring evidence-based programming to their region. Health care professionals can advocate by presenting at a Health Fair or Survivor Day event or as part of a lecture series for patients and caregivers. Health care professionals including clinicians, nurses, social workers and other providers can train to become Moving For Life Certified Instructors (MFLCIs.). Consider engaging in or teaching Moving For Life classes.
Lessons Learned for Researchers or Additional Research Needed: 
It would be helpful to understand more about how exercise can address inflammation, hormonal changes, fatigue, and to the neurophysiology behind these processes. It is also important to understand what motivates cancer patients and survivors to participate in exercise and dance, and to identify mitigation of barriers to participation. For example, do group classes have greater adherence for certain demographics? Finally, it would be helpful to know if streaming a class online is more useful than providing a DVD, and what price points are most accessible for the majority of patients.