People exercising
Residents of Ervin Towers take advantage of a new exercise class offered by the Kroc Center and the Georgia Cancer Center.

Georgia Cancer Center helps local residents access fitness classes to reduce cancer risk

Daily exercise can help reduce the risk of more than 10 forms of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, and a new initiative from the Georgia Cancer Center will help local residents access the tools they need to stay fit.

As a part of the Cancer Health Awareness through screeNinG and Education (CHANGE) Initiative implemented by the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University, residents of five local low-income housing complexes completed surveys to voice what they feel is needed in their community to increase healthy living. The goal of the CHANGE Initiative is to educate citizens of Georgia about the prevention of cancer as well as reduce the risk of the disease.  

“The project is twofold,” said Dr. Marlo Vernon, assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center. “One piece is working in the community, doing cancer education, reducing risk of cancer through the behaviors, and then navigating people to cancer screenings, especially with COVID. We’ve seen huge decreases in the people getting regular screenings.”

Vernon added that talking to the community first to see what they want is of the utmost importance. Having residents behind the project makes it easier to bring about change.

Residents of Ervin Towers, a local apartment complex, are one of the targeted communities. Their survey showed residents want more access to fitness options since they do not have an on-site gym and many are unable to attend fitness classes outside of their complex.

man using exercise band
Residents at Ervin Towers take advantage of new exercise program to help combat cancer.

On Sept. 16, the Georgia Cancer Center teamed up with the Kroc Center to teach the residents about the importance of an active lifestyle.

Justus Walker, a fitness coordinator with the Kroc Center, was on hand to teach a “movers and shakers” class so residents could learn how to maintain their bodies through fitness. The class included physical activities for those with limited mobility, as most residents of Ervin Towers are older adults. 

“We love working with the seniors and being able to work with them outside of the Kroc Center has been a big want for us to spread information and knowledge,” said Walker.

Going forward, instructors from both the Kroc Center and local athletic retailer Fleet Feet will come to Ervin Towers to host weekly group fitness classes as the CHANGE Initiative works to decrease cancer risks among the residents.  

“We want our residents here, who are mostly seniors, to understand the importance of how cancer can impact them, but also how to prevent it. It’s very important that they are educated and aware,” said Derek Bell, resident services specialist at Ervin Towers. 

fitness instructor exercises with two mascots
Justus Walker from the Kroc Center hosts a “movers and shakers” exercise class along with Augustus, Augusta University’s mascot, and RJ, the mascot from the Kroc Center.

Many of the residents at Ervin Towers have been living there for quite some time, but due to lack of local resources, have not had the chance to take the steps to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

“I think this is fabulous. I’ve lived here for 15 years, so I’d like to see everyone get up and get more active instead of talking about how they don’t feel right,” said Rhonda Pleinis, vice president of the Ervin Towers Association. 

“What’s most important is we want our residents to get as many services as they can to help improve their quality of life,” said Bell. 

Ervin Towers is the second of five local residences that will receive support from the CHANGE Initiative. Over the summer, Peabody Apartment residents asked for more access to fresh fruits and vegetables since their community is in an area where fresh markets are not readily available.  

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Written by
Janell Williams

Janell Williams is a fall 2022 media relations intern for Augusta University Communications & Marketing.

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Written by Janell Williams

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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