Motivating cancer survivors to stay fit

  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 24 Aug 2019

Participants stretching at the Fitness Marathon Programme in Universiti Malaya.

“DOING three hours of non-stop physical activity would have been impossible for me a few years ago, but today I managed to do just that, ” said Nancy Teh, 54, a breast cancer survivor.

“It was fun. Everybody was participating in the activities, sharing stories and motivating each other to continue till the end, ” she added.

Teh was one of the 415 participants who took part in the Fitness Marathon Programme (FMP) at Universiti Malaya.

FMP is the brainchild of University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Sports Medicine Department head Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Nahar Azmi Mohamed.

With its motto “Survivor, Let’s Keep Fit & Healthy for Life”, FMP was targeted at not only cancer survivors but was also open to their caregivers, staff and the public.

Dr Nahar driving home the importance of  exercise.  — Photos: AZHAR  MAHFOF/The StarDr Nahar driving home the importance of exercise. — Photos: AZHAR MAHFOF/The StarDuring the three-hour non-stop programme, every 20 minutes was led by different instructors of activities like zumba, aerobics, yoga, line dance, tabata and qigong.

Teh is also a regular participant of Exercise Support Group (ESG)@ UMMC.

ESG, held every Saturday, is aimed at encouraging cancer survivors to adopt a healthy lifestyle through exercise and physical activity.

“True to its name, ESG is a great support for my mental and physical health. It has helped me to complete the FMP, ” said Teh, adding that attending ESG has even prompted her to exercise on her own, including walking 5km every morning.

Another participant, Fuziana Ibrahim, 56, was diagnosed with lymphoma three years ago.

“I’ve always thought having cancer meant being weak and weary but now, my perception has changed, ” said Fuziana.

“FMP is a great reminder that we are not fighting this battle alone and help is there when needed. Most importantly, it has taught us determination, ” she added.

ESG features activities such as aerobics, zumba, weightlifting and yoga.

Participants also take part in boot camps. In 2017, they climbed Mount Kinabalu.

Instructor Revathi Murugappan leading the yoga session.Instructor Revathi Murugappan leading the yoga session.Dr Nahar said it was important for cancer survivors to exercise regularly as various studies showed that exercise could greatly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, ”

“Although FMP started out as a test of endurance and an activity to raise awareness, it ended up being a day of celebration for the cancer survivors.

“FMP was intended to act as a platform for cancer survivors to challenge themselves and to put the five years of training with ESG@ UMMC to test, ” added Dr Nahar.

Dr Nahar said a bigger programme was in planning for next year in conjunction with World Cancer Month.ESG hopes to hold the biggest fitness marathon by getting 1,000 cancer survivors to take part in mass physical activity on Feb 22,2020.

FMP was jointly organised by UMMC’s Sports Medicine, Clinical Oncology and Dietetic departments.

Also present was UMMC director Prof Dr Tunku Kamarul Zaman Tunku Zainol Abidin. — By YOSINI DEVI

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