MELROSE—Applications are now being accepted for the YMCA’s LiveSTRONG program spring session, set to begin in April.

The program is free of charge to those 18 years and older who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, are undergoing treatment or have already had treatment.

(Contact [email protected] for further information. YMCA membership is not required to participate, and applicants are not required to live in Melrose.)

LiveSTRONG focuses on physical activity and includes customized exercises specific to individual needs over a 12-week period on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The exercises are overseen by certified fitness instructors who have been trained in cancer survivorship, post-rehabilitation exercise and supportive cancer care. Exercises are geared to cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, balance and flexibility exercises.

Lead Trainer Courtney Vernadakis, who runs the sessions, knows firsthand how important it is to stay active after a cancer diagnosis as she is a survivor, herself.

“Physical activity is vital and this program allows us to help you find a way to incorporate extra movement into your day,” said Vernadakis. “Not only do we help you with your strength, endurance and mobility, the social aspects of the program are just as important because participants are with people who understand the effects of cancer treatments.”

Eileen Lyle, a mentor for LiveSTRONG, said the program allows her to meet others who have been affected by cancer and assist them with their workouts, which are designed to help them regain their strength after their diagnosis.

Each 90-minute session focuses on 30 minutes of cardio training on a machine of a participant’s choice—treadmill, elliptical, rower or stationary bike—and trainers explain in detail proper form and benefits derived from using the machines. In addition, participants spend 30 minutes in strength training or using weight machines. The final 30 minutes are concentrated on a mix of balance and flexibility exercises.

Pre- and post-participation evaluations include functional and quality of life assessments.

As an added bonus, participants and a caregiver receive a membership at the YMCA for the duration of the program.

Bernadette Farrell, senior program/health and wellness director and association health and wellness team leader, said that as a progressive program, participants are tested at the beginning and end of every session.

“Every person who has come through the program can boast improvements in at least one of the wellness markers used,” she commented. “And they develop healthy habits to keep those improvements. But even more than the physical improvements, participants develop relationships with each other and our trainers that extend beyond the 12 weeks. It is my favorite aspect of the program.”

For more information, contact Courtney Vernadakis at [email protected] or call 781-665-4360.