Exercise guru Karen Merrill offers a free 10-week exercise session to cancer patients under her non-profit organization Ho’ola Cancer Exercise Wellness Program. “Participants can take control of at least one aspect of their cancer treatment,” says Merrill. “With so many doctors appointments to go to, this exercise empowers them to get back on track with life.”
Merrill says the students become a part of her extended family. “The people who go to our program are amazing individuals,” she says. “You get the sense that they’re so happy, and every day is an important day.”
The Kailua native and Punahou grad, who was named the Personal Trainer of the Year 2004 by the American Council on Exercise, provides cancer patients with a cardiovascular work-out, strength exercises and flexibility training. The Strive to Thrive fundraising campaign allows people to sponsor all or part of the $1,000 that it takes for a patient to participate in the program.
Volunteer fitness trainers from the Honolulu Club help run classes, which have a maximum of 15 people. Lisa Gleason (pictured above left) volunteers as technical director. Plans for the future include offering the classes at Castle Medical Center this year. Merrill says she sometimes feels ready to give up on the class because of the hardships and difficulties of fundraising to combat escalating costs and mounting paperwork. But she forges on when she hears patients say things like ‘This class has changed my life, changed my mental attitude. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.‘Patients report 100 to 500 percent return increase in strength,” she admits proudly.
Merrill has a master of science in exercise science from University of South Alabama. She is a certified athletic trainer, licensed massage therapist, clinical exercise specialist, cancer exercise specialist, lifestyle and weight management consultant. She can also teach Pilates, spin classes, and American Red Cross training.
Her day job is with her personal training company, Body Resolve, which offers personal training, sports conditioning and massage therapy. You may know her from her professional contribution to the 2005-2006 Dream Makeover Hawaii Show. In addition to running her cancer fitness program, her volunteer work includes serving on the advisory board of the American Cancer Society Honolulu field office.
The next round of exercise classes at the Honolulu Club starts in July. Fliers announcing the classes will be available at the upcoming American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Magic Island, which takes place July 14 at 7 p.m. through July 15 at 7 a.m. For more information, call 284-5150 or log onto www.cancerexercisewellness.org
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