CAPABLE expands into Dearborn, will offer free exercise classes to Arab-American breast cancer survivors

The Cross Training and Physical Activity: A Better Life Experience (CAPABLE) program looks forward to expanding into Dearborn, a majority Arab American community. This is thanks to a recent grant of nearly $50,000 from internal Karmanos funding. The Dearborn program will be geared toward Arab American breast cancer survivors.

CAPABLE provides 12 weeks of free physical activity classes for cancer survivors. The sessions include interval training, strength and conditioning workouts of simple movements performed at scalable levels for each participant. The classes are offered as part of a clinical trial exploring how exercise improves the quality of life for cancer survivors. Participants partake in functional testing to measure strength, cardiovascular fitness and body composition. Plus, survivors do not need to be previously active in exercising to participate. CAPABLE is co-led by Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, Ph.D., MPH, leader of the Population Studies and Disparities Research (PSDR) Program, scientific director of the Epidemiology Research Core at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, and professor in the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University (WSU) School of Medicine; and Hayley S. Thompson, Ph.D., associate center director of Community Outreach and Engagement, faculty supervisor of the Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement (OCHECE), member of the PSDR Program at Karmanos, and professor in the Department of Oncology at WSU School of Medicine.

There are more than two million Arab Americans in the U.S. Over 277,000 of them live in Michigan, with the majority residing in the southeast region, which includes Dearborn. The U.S. government does not officially recognize Arab Americans as a distinct minority. In addition, few cancer prevention and control efforts reach the Arab American communities, including cancer research and related surveillance.

OCHECE has established a strong relationship in Dearborn with ACCESS (the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) – the two organizations’ partnership formed the ACCESS-Dearborn Cancer Action Council (CAC). This CAC has previously identified health and wellness lifestyles as a research priority. CAPABLE adds to this existing partnership and is a start to identifying solutions to ACCESS-Dearborn’s goals. To view all the CAC priorities, click here.

Research has shown that regular exercise improves cancer-specific outcomes. The American Cancer Society recently brought together an expert panel to develop guidelines for cancer survivors related to physical activity. According to a 2016 study, Arab Americans reported a higher amount of no physical activity when compared to White respondents in Michigan.

For the new project, the CAPABLE and OCHECE research team will work with the ACCESS-Dearborn CAC to host focus groups of Arab American women to understand the barriers to physical activity in their community and to adapt the 12-week CAPABLE exercise program in Dearborn for breast cancer survivors. CAPABLE and OCHECE will provide more information on when the new sessions will begin and how breast cancer survivors may sign up at a later date.

For more information about CAPABLE, visit

This article was written by Wendy Clem, member of the Macomb County Cancer Action Council.