Gemma Hillier-Moses founded MOVE Charity in 2016 after her experience with cancer aged 24. Her focus is to support and inspire people to move against cancer.
MOVE promotes physical activity in life with the current evidence base for cancer survivorship, stating that there is: ‘persuasive evidence that a healthy lifestyle during and after cancer is associated with improved physical and psychological well-being.’
The charity provides support in several ways, including an online programme, community support groups through 5k Your Way, educational articles, workshops, and a podcast. Helen Murray, a MOVE Cancer Rehab Instructor, shared her insights on how the charity helps combat mental and physical health.
Image Credit: Helen Murray
Q: How does MOVE combat both mental and physical health?
Helen: “Physical activity is so great for physical and mental well-being. The studies are out there that moving makes you feel better. In terms of the physical benefits of MOVE charity, we help people to build up their fitness following a cancer diagnosis.
“During cancer treatment, there’s a lot of time sitting around and not actually moving very much. Getting back to being able to walk to the shops or getting up the stairs are simple things that physical activity can improve. In terms of your heart and cardiovascular exercise, we help with that too.
“Mentally, it’s such a powerful thing. Exercise is so powerful. You don’t have to be outside to do exercise, but again, there’s research out there that going for a walk and having that greenery around you makes you feel better.
“Exercise is one area that you can have some control over after a cancer diagnosis. There’s so much that you can’t control, but actually, you can control if you move. With what we do, you can see the progress that you have made over eight weeks, and that’s incredibly powerful. We encourage people to set themselves goals, and just seeing that you are making those improvements helps people feel better mentally and physically.
“One thing that we do measure before and after the programme is fatigue and quality of life. We have shown through the programme and analysing these scores that actually, the 8-week programme reduces cancer fatigue and improves quality-of-life scores. That is concrete that exercise has all of those benefits.
Q: Why do you think cancer patients lose their confidence in both mental and physical health?
Helen: “I think control comes into it. Your body changes, and body image for young people is such a massive thing. You see so many people on social media portraying that perfect body. Maybe you’ve been on steroids, maybe you’ve put on weight and lost weight because of your treatment. All of those things, you’re bound to have those feelings. I think that cancer does have that effect that things change, and you don’t have that confidence. There’s fear around it as well, whether you’re going to do more damage to yourself.
Q: Why do you think that rehabilitation post-cancer is so important for mental reasons?
Helen: “The confidence is massive. Especially with a structured programme like the one that we offer because you are accountable to someone, so it helps with that motivation. It’s very difficult to know what to do. Having that guided knowledge and that cheerleader in the corner celebrating the win is so important.
“Seeing that you’re getting stronger week on week gives you so much confidence back. Cancer has a way of smashing the confidence out of someone, and it takes a lot to build that backup. There’s so much fear about reoccurrence. Knowing that you can do something again and because you’re feeling better for it as well enables you to take those next steps. Being physically fitter gives you all of that confidence to give you everything else that you would like to do.
“Physical check-ins are just as important as mental check-ins. They’re so related. Yes, you can feel amazing mentally, but it’s really important to keep moving as well. They’re just so intertwined. Who doesn’t feel better after being outside?”
Q: Why do you think that physical wellness is so ignored compared to its mental health counterpart?
Helen: “I wonder if it comes down to that effort and that sometimes people think physical activity has to be smashing yourself silly in the gym, but it doesn’t. you don’t have to feel horrendous to have been physically active. I don’t know if sometimes people think back to their teenage years and associate fitness with something they don’t enjoy. Sometimes there is that mental block that you don’t want to do things with people. What’s the worst that can happen? Go and give it a go and then see how you feel and then link those two things of the mental and the physical.”
To find out more about MOVE Charity, click here. You can find the MOVE Against Cancer podcast here. MOVE is a small charity doing amazing things. If anyone wishes to fundraise for MOVE, please get in touch here.