Adams State Engages SLV Community in Cancer and Exercise Study

Students from Adams State University’s Kinesiology department have been applying their knowledge and working diligently to engage the San Luis Valley community over the past two years while assisting with the San Luis Valley Cancer and Exercise Study. The SLV Cancer and Exercise Study is an ongoing study at ASU led by Dr. Tracey Robinson and Peggy Johnson of ASU and Dr. Maureen Cooper of SLV Health, with support from SLV Health and the Colorado Cancer Coalition. This study seeks to improve the lives of those who have fought against cancer, and to teach about exercise, health eating, and to offer support to those afflicted. Participation in this program is being offered to any cancer survivor in the SLV including anyone who has been diagnosed with any type of cancer, is in any stage of cancer treatment, or is in recovery or remission.

Participants start out by taking several tests. These tests include a six-minute walk test to evaluate general cardiovascular health and aerobic capacity, a grip strength test to evaluate grip strength and muscular fitness, and a fitness age test consisting of smaller tests designed to evaluate specific key fitness aspects. These tests are used as a baseline to give participants a relative fitness or physiological age based on key factors such as: cardiovascular health, muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition. Alongside these physical tests, participants complete a questionnaire designed to determine their quality of life.

After this initial testing, participants are requested to attend three one-hour exercise sessions per week led by graduate student Alexis Colwell, along with senior undergraduate exercise science students. The exercise program continues for ten weeks, after which participants will be tested again comparing their new fitness age to their starting fitness age to better measure the positive effects of exercise on cancer survivors. This ten-week exercise intervention program is offered free to all cancer survivors who qualify.

A standard hour-long session at the Alamosa Family Rec Center consists of three primary aspects of focus, split into ten to twenty minute circuits with a light warm-up performed before starting the session. Each circuit focuses on a specific aspect of overall physical health. In the area of cardiovascular fitness participants are asked to walk, bike, use an elliptical trainer, rower, or whatever other physical exercise they feel comfortable with to help strengthen their cardiovascular health. For strength and muscular endurance training participants engage in a circuit style muscular training program that has them performing various activities to improve their muscular strength, such as bicep curls and sit-ups. Participants select their own desired weight or resistance for these activities and students from ASU actively participate in demonstration of proper technique and helping with exercise as needed. For flexibility everyone is brought together at the end of the time for ten minutes to engage in an active group stretching activity to improve flexibility. Though these activities are conducted in a group, each activity is tailored to every individual to better meet the unique health and fitness levels of each cancer survivor.

Alongside these standard sessions, alternative sessions that focus on different types of activity are also included. These fun and engaging activities include things such as beach ball volleyball, partner exercise activities, yoga, and line dancing.

Included with the exercise program are additional seminars provided by Adams State University and San Luis Valley Health. These include seminars on healthy eating and diet for those recovering from cancer, as well as cancer support groups.

Available to not just participants of the San Luis Valley Cancer and Exercise Study but to the greater community of the San Luis Valley guest speaker Heather J. Leach, PhD from Colorado State University’s Cancer and Exercise program will be in Alamosa on November 13th at 6:00 p.m. Dr. Leach will give a lecture entitled “Physical Activity for Cancer Survivorship” hosted by Adams State University Kinesiology department in Richardson Hall Auditorium. This discussion will cover the benefits of physical activity after cancer diagnosis, along with strategies to promote physical activity in cancer survivors.

Adams State University is actively seeking more participants for the San Luis Valley Cancer and Exercise Study for the upcoming year, and if you would like to participate in this study please contact Alexis Colwell via email at or by phone at 303-547-6761.

Jamie McMullen