Judging from a recent Wall Street Journal article by Lucette Lagnado, entitled, “Sloan Kettering’s Quest to Prove Exercise Can Inhibit Cancer: Trying ‘exercise oncology’ to stop or delay the spread of a malignant tumor; a trial for women with stage 4 breast cancer,” it is clear that exercise is being taken more seriously as a way of preventing, recovering from and treating cancer. According to the article, “The new research at Sloan Kettering includes randomized, controlled studies—considered the gold standard for scientific inquiry—seeking to prove that exercise can alter the biology of a tumor, thereby inhibiting or slowing its growth, says Dr. Lee Jones, who is leading the Sloan Kettering effort.”
Moving For Life is thrilled by MSKCC interest in this research as it will undoubtedly build upon the growing body of scientific knowledge to and from which we have been so privileged to contribute and learn since our inception. In the following blog entry, Moving For Life’s, Dr. Martha Eddy sheds light on how Dr. Lee Jones’ research dovetails with our own work and findings, and identifies the gaps that still exist in our knowledge.
I salute Dr. Lee Jones of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in his excellence of research design and his pursuit of a greater understanding of how exercise affects people going through treatment. When we began Moving For Life in 1999 (formerly called Moving On Aerobics in order to emphasize the importance of aerobic- and cardio-stimulating activity – such as fast walking, non-impact aerobics, dance, biking and swimming – in “moving on” from cancer), Dr. Alison Rosen and I located 4 controlled studies, mostly from Europe, that stated that recovery rates improved when survivors were actively engaged in aerobic exercise. As Dr. Jones reports, no one was doing viable studies about whether exercise could be a positive intervention during cancer treatment.
Over the next ten years, worldwide research organizations, including major health institutions in the USA, completed studies with survivors, which yielded the following findings:
1) Exercise improves quality of life in survivors
2) Exercise speeds up recovery
3) Exercise can prolong length of life
4) Exercise reduces the chance of recurrence
Replication studies have validated many of these findings; but the whys of each of the above are still being discovered and just what is perfect for people during treatment needs more randomized controlled research.
Driven by even the small amount of data available and her own experience in going through treatment, Dr. Alison Rosen motivated Jan Albert and myself to design a GENTLE exercise program that could contribute to survivors’ improvements. We focused first on women dealing with the side-effects of breast cancer treatment. In creating the program I followed the traditional intervention guidelines that women should only begin exercising six weeks after surgery and with physician clearances.
Right away we partnered with SHARE Cancer support and Gilda’s Club. Since these support centers offer programming to diverse people with different types of cancer, we saw the anecdotal positive effects of our program with women with various types of reproductive cancers (breast, uterine, cervical, ovarian) and men and women with brain, colon, lung, pancreatic, appendicular, metastatic cancers among others. While mostly post-surgery – a few people came to prep for surgery – many were active in their chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Many still are.
Here’s what we hear:
“Moving For Life makes me feel better about myself.”
“I am no longer just identified with my cancer.”
“Even if I feel exhausted, I am surprised that I feel better once I’ve finished class.”
”When I take class regularly I have more energy for the rest of my life – housework and work.”
We could go on and on….
Related to in-treatment research, Dr. Freya Schnabel, Head of Breast Surgery at NYU Medical Center, observed that of her patients, the ones attending these classes were feeling better. Apace with the findings that aerobic exercise was also reducing rates of breast cancer recurrence, Dr. Schnabel initiated her own pilot research. Moving For Life was invited to be the central intervention (together with two nutrition classes) with NYU Langone Medical Center’s Breast Program to see what impact twice-a-week Moving For Life classes could have on BodyMass Index (BMI) in an eight-week period (Click here to see the NYU research poster). We found that women were motivated to exercise and that a majority of the women lost a pound per week (6 – 13 lbs in 8 weeks of training). Because of Hurricane Sandy, the study stretched out over 10 weeks.
Longitudinal data is still being collected by NYU Langone as to determine whether women continue to exercise once the study ended. The post-6-month study revealed that losing the support of the group had negative impact. NYU then instituted a Sunday morning class, but it wasn’t well attended either. Barriers to exercise post-treatment will hopefully continue to be revealed through this research and that of other labs like Dr. Jones’.
As a side note we also found that there was lots of research showing that music is an anti-depressant. Since depression is another common side-effect to having a life-threatening illness, we decided it was important that I design a program with music. Jan Albert, an award-winning video and TV producer and former DJ stepped up and helped us select winning music.
Middle-aged and older women with breast cancer often suffer from other conditions, including osteoarthritis, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tai Chi has been shown to be an exercise that helps women with all of these common conditions.
A meta-analysis of 33 studies revealed that Tai Chi tended to improve walking distance and knee extensor strength in people with these conditions, and it also relieved the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
How Moving For Life Incorporates Tai Chi
Martha Eddy has incorporated some of the key qualities of movement found in Tai Chi into the Moving For Life DanceExercise™ classes. A simultaneous combination of grounding, sustained flow, spatial awareness and balance are evident in the Eddy’s gentle aerobics cool down. The section of the class called ‘Tai Chi Ice Skating’ is a time for each mover to find her or his personal dance – like a figure skater enjoying solo time on the ice (but in this case in the company of other appreciative colleagues). The Moving For Life instructors compassionately guide newcomers so they are comfortable ‘doing their own thing’ along with other participants.
“Soul Train, Fame, Dancing with the Stars… Notice a Pattern?”
by Angela Tranquille
For decades Americans have been fascinated with watching television shows that revolve around dancing. My only question is: Why should we sit back and watch everyone else have all the fun? Why deprive ourselves of all the health benefits that can be obtained from dance? This is specifically important for people who are recovering from illness and cancer survivors. The National Cancer Institute reported that women who are physically active after diagnosis have a 26-40% lower risk of recurrence.
My experience at Moving For Life’s dance exercise class at JCC was truly memorable. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of these free dance exercise classes available each day of the week across the NY area. I am sure some of you maybe thinking, “I’m’ too shy to go to a dance exercise class” or “I have two left feet” There is no need to worry about any of that!
Moving For Life’s dance class is nothing like what you have seen on television (an overbearing dance instructor screaming at the top of her lungs because a student missed a step). On the contrary, one of the distinguishing features of the class is the high level of patience and encouragement exhibited by the compassionate instructors.
Moving For Life’s dance exercise class is specifically targeted towards cancer survivors. For individuals battling cancer, every day is different. Some days you feel stronger than others. Recognizing this, the instructors do not push the students beyond their limits. The instructors demonstrate genuine care for the well-being of their students. Every class begins with the instructor asking “Does anyone feel pain anywhere?” If any of the students have responded in the affirmative, the instructor proceeds to do specific exercise moves designed to provide relief to that particular part of the body. After addressing areas causing pain, the warm up begins.
The warm up consists of gentle stretching and breath-based moves. As students move into the aerobics portion, the music becomes more upbeat. One of the songs played during this section is Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady”. As stated in the lyrics,
“Step and move your hips
With a feelin’ from side to side
Sit yourself down in your car
And take a ride
While you’re movin’ rock steady
Whether you are standing or sitting, the song emphasizes one thing: rock steady! Keep moving! The class is an hour long. For those who are unable to stand for the entirety, chairs are provided and exercise moves are adjusted to accommodate a seated position.
It is truly inspiring to be surrounded by a room full of women who in spite of their diagnosis, have huge smiles on their faces and are so lively and encouraging. Moving For Life provides not only an amazing workout, but also a community of support for cancer survivors. Many students enjoy the class so much that they have become regulars and are known by the teachers by name.
Today, I challenge you to grab your remote, press the “off” button and join us as we dance, sweat, laugh and form new friendships at Moving For Life’s dance class at the JCC. See you there!
“For My Aunt Sandra”
By Ashley Somwaru
June 1st, 2013- the day Sandra Lallman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
And also the day I became acquainted with cancer’s cruelty. Sandra was vacationing in Florida when she felt a sudden pain in her back. Initially she had ignored it, until she felt that it was something more than just a sore back. You can imagine the family’s surprise when we heard she had this disease. “How could this happen?” I wondered constantly to myself when I was told that my aunt not only had cancer but that she had a time limit to her life. Six months. Six months to enjoy the last moments with her family. Six months to come to peace with her fatal situation. Six months to deteriorate slowly and painfully. Six months until her “date with death”.
We had hope though. We believed that the cancer treatments from Sloan would work and the right diet would help her get better. She had to get better. She was our rock. Sweet Aunt Sandra, who always did for others but never asked in return for herself. We couldn’t fail her now.
But we never succeeded. Week after week I would visit my aunt and week after week I saw her withdraw into herself. First, she stopped talking. We would all sit around the dining room table and reminisce on funny tales of Sandra’s adventures; hoping to get a smile, a laugh, a word. However, she just sat and listened with a dazed look in her eyes that used to be filled with life but had dulled into a silhouette of sadness. We took turns blaming the medicine and the pills, saying that it needed to be changed. We had to believe that there was a way for Aunt Sandra to survive. We stuck to the undying hope that she would recover.
But then Sandra started losing her hair. I thought nothing could be worse than that. I was proven wrong when I could barely recognize her four months later. I thought, “Is this what cancer does to all the good people in the world? And finally, Sandra stopped coming out of her room altogether. She didn’t want to see anyone. I guess she knew she was coming close. We all told her repeatedly that she could fight cancer but she saw through the false optimism. Maybe she wanted to make it easier on us by distancing herself so we would feel less pain when she really went. But the pain couldn’t have been worse.
December 5th, 2013 – Sandra went on her “date”.
My aunt was one of the victims that didn’t get to make it. However, the people that do survive have a second chance at life, to be happy that they’re alive and appreciate the time they have left to spend with their families. They can get renewed hope; something that I saw first hand when I witnessed a Moving For Life class. This organization does not just encourage people to exercise because it’s healthy, they inspire people to have a future that is joyous and cancer free. It gives hope to people so that they can bounce back from cancer and the side effects of treatment and get back to how their lives and bodies were before.
I decided to be an intern for Moving For Life because I wanted to see people gain confidence after their experience with cancer. Sadly, I wasn’t able to instill hope into my aunt. However, I found that working for Moving For Life gave me a chance to help the wonderful people who are giving hope and happiness to cancer survivors.
Dr. Martha Eddy, the founder of Moving For Life, does an incredible job of making cancer patients and survivors feel more positive and get active in their daily lives. They go from not being able to get up, to having fun dancing to upbeat tunes without an ounce of pain. Moving For Life reminds this community that they are victorious. These survivors gain a renewed healthy life style that helps them for many more years to come. They fought their rough battle with cancer and now it’s time to “dance to recovery”. (Dance to Recovery is also the name of Moving For Life’s exercise DVD.) I wish my aunt had this chance to smile and dance with such a caring group of people. I could just imagine her dancing to the beat with her infectious, big laugh. Aunt Sandra would’ve gotten a kick out of Moving For Life.
Moving For Life – THIS is the Career that I Want!
by Chelsea Rose
It was a little past midnight in the midst of finals week. I was putting the finishing touches on my final paper “The Biological Underpinnings of the Physiological, Emotional, and Social Benefits of Body-Mind Practices” and very much in need of a break. To switch gears and not disrupt my friend asleep on the bed and other starring bleary eyed at his laptop screen, I decided to check my email. The top message in my inbox read, “Martha Eddy.” I froze. I took a double take. I had literally just cited her in my paper! I admired her work and couldn’t fathom that an internationally known scholar would contact me personally! I assumed it must have been the night getting to me. But as tired as I was the email was real! I quickly read it and startled my friends screaming, “I have an internship!” Needless to say my excitement broke the 24-hour quiet rule but I felt it was justified.
I was fortunate enough to meet Martha Eddy at the 2014 National Dance/Movement Therapy Conference in Chicago this past October. I ended up attending her seminar by accident and am very thankful that I did. Throughout the conference I was trying to decide if dance/movement therapy was the career for me. I found the seminars intriguing and insightful but for whatever reason didn’t feel it was the right path for me to take. But Martha had a different perspective with Moving For Life. She was not a dance therapist but used dance as holistic therapy for women with cancer. All her movements and exercises were based on Laban Movement Analysis, Bartenieff Fundamentals and the physiological and emotional effects of cancer treatment. I was absolutely floored by her presentation. I was amazed at how she used dance and dance science in such a ground breaking way. The whole concept of the organization as well as the astounding amount of empirical evidence supporting the overall effectiveness of Moving For Life’s programs made me realize that THIS was the work I wanted to do! This is the career I want!
After the presentation I immediately spoke to Martha, which lead to my internship with Moving For Life this summer. And what an incredible summer it has been! From coordinating the annual Hike-a-thon fundraiser through the little know green spaces of Manhattan in only my second week to personally assisting Martha with somatic publications and connecting with numerous Moving For Life instructors, this summer has been a dream come true. I was even lucky enough to attend the second annual International Somatics-Based Dance Education as Martha’s assistant where I aided her during her keynote speech, met somatic dance icons, and further solidified that I was going in to the right career field. In the office I was always kept busy organizing teacher schedules and prepping for events such as the many cancer awareness walks I have been working with for the past couple of months. Although I love the administrative work I do and love being surrounded by the hundreds of scholarly dance books in the office, the best part of my internship was attending Moving For Life classes.
Experiencing classes first hand was an amazing experience. Seeing Martha teach was incredible. The amount of knowledge and care she brought to each class was truly remarkable. Each different class was a tight knit community not held back by illness but full of excitement, laughter and willingness to learn about and nourish their bodies and life! Everyone came in with a smile and left feeling rejuvenated and connected with their bodies. Despite the classes having a specified structure Martha tailored some of the exercises to the aches and pains of the class participants, which was much appreciated and enjoyed. The community, hope, and health Moving For Life fostered was truly inspiring.
However, what has really made this internship so profound was its effect on my personal life. A few weeks in to the summer I learned that a very close relative of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been a role model for me since childhood, which made the news of her diagnosis all the more devastating. After her surgery I spoke to her about my internship and explained Moving For Life’s purpose. The next day I was in the office a little post-it note by the desktop caught my eye. Scribbled on it was my relative’s name and number. As it turns out she had called the office to find the class nearest her and was eager to attend. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the rest of the day. To see Moving For Life touch the life of a loved one infinitely increased my admiration and understanding of the gravity of this organizations work.
I experienced a lot in the short time I was able to work for Moving For Life this summer and don’t want my time to end as I head back to college. In the future I hope to become a certified Moving For Life teacher and give these life-changing experiences to many more people for years to come.
In addition to medical treatment advances, science has learned that lifestyle can play a role in the treatment as well as in preventing breast cancer in the first place. One important lifestyle factor that has emerged is that of physical activity. While weight loss and exercise have many important health benefits, the effect on insulin levels may be an underlying factor. First, here are some examples as to why exercise and weight can be so important:
At Time of Diagnosis:
Women who are obese when they are diagnosed with breast cancer have a 33% higher risk of recurrence and death, when compared with normal weight women.
Women who are physically active after being diagnosed have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and death—a far greater association than any medical treatment. A meta-analysis of a total of over 12,000 breast cancer survivors showed that postdiagnosis physical activity was associated with a 24% and 34% lower rate of breast cancer recurrence and death, respectively, and a 41% lower rate of all-cause death.
Women who gain weight after diagnosis have a higher risk of recurrence and death, no matter what their weight at the time of diagnosis.
Remember when Marcia Griffith led us in a four line dance back in the 70s? Little did we know that this combination of slide, turn, and clap would remain a popular hit through the decades! Many family reunions and birthday parties start the dance hour off with The Electric Slide because the moves are easy to follow and raise people’s energy to a point that can only be released through laughter.
When I think about all the times I have electric boogied in a square across the floor, what I remember most is the joy of the people around me. Dancing with other people is a great way to get your aerobics in while gaining strength just from being around another person. Throw on your favorite playlist, and you’ve created an instant dance studio at any location.
Here’s a clip of us having fun, getting our DanceExercise on in the Moving For Life Dance to Recovery DVD.
Earlier this month, Dr. Martha Eddy invited me to a Moving For Life lecture.
Once at Jacobi Hospital, I sat in a circle with about fifteen other women who came to SHARE’s breast cancer support group in Jacobi Hospital. Dr. Eddy began with a check in: what hurts. Almost unanimously, joints. For some it was back, for some it was the knees. Most were fatigued and unmotivated. In this moment, the women enjoyed unapologetic honesty by airing out the pains they silently suffer day to day. I know it was comforting to hear that none of the ailments were uncommon.
Continuing on, I realized I was misled by the word “lecture”, which implies that one person talks to a group, maybe opening the floor to questions at the end. Instead, Dr. Eddy created a space of dialogue. At any moment, women would speak up for clarification or a quick question. We laughed at some of the stories they were willing to share. And at one point, were brought to tears by one in particular who was stuck at a treatment option crossroads. Fortunately, the other ladies gave honest advice about their own experiences with treatment and recovery.
Dr. Eddy had some of her own advice too. For the joints they complained about earlier: some hand exercises that played with squeezing and pressure. For those joints, we focused on posture and bone alignment. For ab strength, which would relieve back pain, a core strengthening workout that can be done in the chair. “I can feel that one! Woo!” one woman laughed. With each direction, everyone in the room mimicked Dr. Eddy’s move, but also got to hear exactly why and how the movement would benefit them. In this way, the value of movement is no secret.
The information is there, but perhaps never before presented in such an accessible format. I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed environment. I enjoyed feeling talked to instead of talked at. And I appreciated the genuineness from everyone present, which showed in the eagerness to share what we knew to help the other women in the group.
Lectures like these and classes are available several times a week. Click for a schedule. Each time you go is sure to be different. I will be going to Emblem Health in Harlem today for the 5:30pm DanceExerscise class! Hope to see you there!
Every second Sunday of June, Green Gym Day encourages people around the world to get outside and make use of their parks. Moving For Life seized this opportunity to explore these beautiful Manhattan parks that we pass every day and very seldom take the time to enjoy.
MFL brought in routines from the classroom into the shaded patches under the trees. As we got our hearts pumping to music during our dance and stretch breaks, our lungs opened to fresh air while we built our energy from the gentle aerobic movements and enjoyed the pleasure of being around each other.
Swindler Cove’s mini waterfall and diverse plant life gave us beautiful sights to enjoy. Along the walk, we appreciated the view over high plunges and from bridges. It made us realise that we often forget the beauty that surrounds us in New York City and the importance of being amongst pure nature.
From the MFL team, we thank the sponsors whose generosity allow MFL classes to be free in underserved communities as well as the supporters – who came out with glowing smiles and positive energy through our walk, dance and stretch breaks as we keep it moving for a life of health!
Sunday June 8th is looking sunny and warm so don’t waste it on your couch. With a high of 84 degrees not happening til later in the day we have the perfect morning planned out for you. The Green Gym Day gets you moving your way through several of our very own beautiful upper Manhattan New York City parks. Also as part of a partnership with Moving For Life, this initiative invites you to indulge in dancing and stretching breaks, or just moving the MFL way – easy walks with lots of smiles.
Not only do you get to spend the day outside, walking through parks with friendly people, having fun and getting some exercise – it’s all done for a good cause. You can invite a friend to sponsor your walk or if you can’t join us you can sponsor another participant to honor a loved one. Click hereto become a sponsor .
If you raise $50, Moving For Life will gift you an MFL t-shirt. You can always buy one for $10; we accept sponsorship donations of any amount, and remember – Moving for Life is a non-profit agency.
For those walkers shy about sponsorship, don’t worry. We will find sponsors for you! Your presence on Sunday is the most valuable support we can receive.
Remember to register through firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a t-shirt size and adhesive logo. You will unfortunately have to wait till September for the next MFL event so don’t miss this one. See you there!
You can join us for all or part of the walk; here are some checkpoints where you can find us:
9 am: Jackie Robinson Park (145th st & Edgecomb ave) – meet, stretch, and warm up.
10:30 am: Highbridge Park (174th st & Amsterdam ave) – dance, take a stretch break.
11:30 am: Swindler Cove (Dyckman st & 10th ave) – dance, take a stretch break.
12:00 pm: RING Garden (Dyckman st & Broadway) – look at the fish!
12:30 pm: Fort Tryon Park (Cloisters & Heather Garden) – stretch, cool down, BYOP (bring your own picnic!) or grab a bite at New Leaf Café.