The START-FIT program focuses on restoring and improving the physiological well-being of individuals on chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal therapy treatment.

The effects of cancer treatment are wide ranging and individualized. Trained exercise specialists take into account medical history and health status when developing individualized exercise programs aimed at improving cardiovascular function, balance, muscular strength and endurance as well as range of motion that may have been lost as a result of treatment.

The specialized program provides safe, private, small group one hour exercise sessions twice a week over the 12 week period (in-person programming and remote options available). Appropriate for everyone regardless of fitness level, START-FIT tailors each program to the individual's specific health need and goals.

Who is a candidate for the START-FIT program?

If you are currently undergoing or recently finished chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or just starting hormonal therapy treatment, or had recent surgery as your only form of treatment and live in Kitchener-Waterloo or surrounding areas, you are a candidate for the START-FIT exercise program. Please contact our Fitness staff for details.

Referral to participate

Prior to participating in the START-FIT program, participants require clearance from their oncologist. Interested participants should ask their oncologist to complete and sign the UW WELL-FIT REFERRAL SCRIPT if exercise is deemed appropriate.

These scripts/referral forms are also available at Grand River Regional Cancer Centre (GRRCC), and can also be obtained by speaking with your supportive care nurse. Once this referral script is complete, we will contact you to schedule your initial appointment.

What happens next?

The program begins with an initial consultation and exercise assessment with each participant. At this appointment, trained exercise physiologists determine a variety of exercise baselines. This initial appointment takes up to two hours to complete.

During this appointment, our Fitness staff get a detailed medical history and determine exercise baselines. Shoulder range of motion, balance and posture are assessed, as well as height, weight and waist circumference. Body composition is assessed while participants are lying comfortably. Cardiovascular fitness is assessed by monitoring the heart rate and blood pressure response to progressive exercise on a stationary bike. Static arm and leg strength are also determined. Given the growing interest in the benefits of exercise for cancer patients, participants are also asked to complete a quality of life survey and a physical activity survey as part of on-going research at the University of Waterloo.

The 12 week START-FIT program runs two times per week with each session lasting one hour. Various day and time options are available and will be discussed at the initial appointment. START-FIT is a fee-for-service program, however support from the Department of Kinesiology and our generous donors continue to help to reduce the overall cost to the participants.

Please read instructions for START-FIT assessment in advance of coming to your appointment.

Instructions for assessment

Information for START-FIT participants

Before beginning the 12 week START-FIT exercise program for individuals undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or hormone treatment, you will be assessed by our Fitness staff to determine exercise baselines.

This assessment takes up to two hours to complete. All information regarding directions and preliminary instructions to follow on the day of the assessment are outlined below.

If you have any questions after reading this information, please contact our Fitness staff for clarification.

Preliminary instructions for assessment

Dress requirements

  • Short sleeved/sleeveless shirt and shorts/track pants/yoga pants should be worn (something you can move comfortably in). Running shoes are the recommended footwear. We have washrooms and change facilities with showers available if needed.

Food and beverages

  • It is recommended that you do not eat a heavy meal within three to four hours prior to the assessment. A light meal/snack is fine, as you should not attempt the assessment on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid drinking beverages, especially those that are caffeinated, four hours prior to the assessment. If you must, try to drink a minimal amount of water.
  • Do not ingest diuretics before the assessment unless they are prescribed by a physician.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages for 48 hours prior to your assessment.
  • Bring a water bottle to the assessment if you have one. We ask that you also bring a water bottle to all exercise sessions. We have a water cooler you can fill your bottle up from when needed and spare paper cups in the event you forget your bottle.
  • Empty your bladder 30 minutes before test.


  • If you are a smoker, avoid smoking for two hours prior to the assessment.


  • Exercise should be avoided 12 hours prior to the assessment.

Please bring a list of all medications you are currently taking.

Where to find us

The START-FIT program is now located at the University of Waterloo in the Toby Jenkins Applied Health Research Building: 340 Hagey Boulevard, Waterloo, ON, N2L 6R6.

For map and detailed directions, see directions and parking for access to the Toby Jenkins Building.

Personal stories

The UW WELL-FIT program has a wide variety of participants, each of which express a great appreciation for their ability to be involved in such a program. Below are a few letters about the program from the participant's perspective. These participants thought it was important to give testimony to the positive effects the UW WELL-FIT program has had on them throughout their cancer treatment.

Community links


In order to continue and grow the START-FIT 12 week program, we rely on the generosity of our donors and recognize both past and present contributions from the Grand River Hospital Foundation and Grand River Regional Cancer Centre.

To donate directly to the program, complete Waterloo's secure online donation form and select  "UW WELL-FIT Program" or contact the Office of Advancement at 519-888-4567 ext. 32036 for alternative ways to show support.