ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A program at URMC that empowers participants to live healthier lifestyles, while lowering the risk of cancer and others diseases, is back.

The free eight-week program, called ‘Promote Health, Prevent Cancer,’ kicks off next week, both virtually and in person. The program is provided in partnership with the Center for Community Health & Prevention and Wilmot Cancer Institute, and helps participants understand how food and exercise can impact their bodies.

“What we really focus on is just tiny little changes over time and about nutrition, healthy habits, we do a little physical activity at the end,” Class facilitator Katie Bauer said. “But most importantly, we are in a support group that kind of cheers each other on, motivates each other, we don’t judge, it’s just a casual conversation.”

The program covers a variety of topics, including healthy weight, physical activity, healthy behaviors, and lifestyle changes. Bauer said one of the most popular topics is how to read a nutritional label. 

“We really do get in deep of the story of what we are consuming and what we’re putting in our bodies. We talk about portions, we talk about added sugars, we talk about sodium and fats,” Bauer said. “There’s a lot of things that happen in the eight weeks, and they always round up with a little bit of physical activity, and always in healthy snacks to try to incorporate in your healthy eating pattern.”

Cathy Markert has previously taken part in the program and said she learned a lot about her own health.

“I thought I had a pretty good handle on nutrition, I just wasn’t following all the rules and I needed some inspiration, and I learned so much, so much of the information that was just common knowledge, I thought was correct, and it was not,” Markert said.

“I learned so much about the actual sugar and fat contents and foods and how to really read a food label, especially in the area of added sugars, which they’ve now added on to the new food labels, and it really has adjusted the choices that I make when it comes to my nutrition.” 

Each virtual class combines 40 minutes of nutrition education and 20 minutes of exercise. The in-person classes have 45 minutes of education and 30 minutes of physical activity. Markert said one of the best parts, whether in-person or virtual, is getting to work with others to hold each other accountable. 

“I think that the biggest change is that it gave them confidence to make those small changes and they saw other people doing it as well, and struggling as well because it’s difficult to make a change in your life,” Markert said. “When you see that other people are in the same boat that you’re in, and they’re trying to make a change and what works for them, it really helps you and it helps them on their journey.”

Bauer adds, “You’re in with this group and you’re thinking, ‘I don’t have to do this alone, and it’s okay if I make mistakes because we have a group that supports me, we all are on the same journey.'”

‘Promote Health, Prevent Cancer’ is offered in numerous counties in our area, including Monroe, Allegany, Broome, Chemung, Delaware, Oswego, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties, among many others. 

The next class is on July 5 at the Henrietta Senior Center, however, the class is full. You can find out where other classes are being held this summer and how to sign up, by clicking here.

You can also reach out to Bauer by emailing her at Katie_Bauer@urmc.rochester.edu