Cardio for Cancer Challenge: Empower Fighters, Fund Trainers

Everybody has a story with cancer, whether it's a family member, friend or someone in your community. That's who the Wellness Gym is here for: they run gym-based exercise programmes for cancer survivors in active treatment, right here in Dunedin.

With the original programme now in its 15th year, they opened the gym at its new location in St Kilda in April 2023. Since then, they have increased their client base to full capacity, and are now tackling the next hurdle in the gym's growth: fundraising to pay their amazing personal trainer, and to add more part-time staff so they can train more cancer survivors undergoing active treatment here in Dunedin.

To make this next step a reality, the Wellness Gym is running the Cardio for Cancer Challenge until Sunday 5 May 2024.
Multiple gyms across Dunedin are on board, encouraging their members to help fundraise for the Wellness Gym. Anyone can join as an individual or team.


Here's how it works:

  • Participate or donate
  • Choose to run, bike, walk, swim, crawl... anything goes
  • Chase your goal and raise funds for a great cause
  • Compete against other teams, or fly solo
  • Be in to win awesome prizes!


The Wellness Gym's personalised programmes increase their clients’ wellbeing and fitness, and they become part of a strong, supportive community.

Previously run at the University of Otago for 12 years and seeing well over 500 clients, the Wellness Gym Charitable Trust has now established the programme as a community service. Uniquely, the gym’s founder and her team have acquired unparalleled knowledge in exercise oncology, which is why oncologists at Te Whatu Ora Southern are eager to refer more clients into the programme.

Every cancer is different, but most treatment plans are invasive, both physically and emotionally. Many cancer survivors feel like they are not in control of their health outcome as they go through the prescribed treatment regime. Once they are discharged from hospital, they often fall into a hole of “what now”.

The Wellness Gym fills this gap in two ways:

  • By developing custom exercise programmes for clients, they regain control over their recovery and wellbeing; and
  • By coming to the gym alongside other cancer survivors, they become part of an incredibly strong community, supporting each other no matter what life brings.

Fifteen months after the original programme closed at the University of Otago, the team of dedicated volunteers around founder Dr Lynnette Jones opened the new Dunedin hub in April 2023 at its new venue in St Kilda. Dr Jones and the gym’s newly appointed personal trainer are seeing clients in both individual and group sessions. Clients are supervised by staff fully trained in exercise physiology and cancer recovery, who are available at all times to ensure clients exercise safely and achieve their prescribed exercise goals.

Survivors in active treatment for all cancer types are referred by the Oncology Department at Te Whatu Ora Southern into the free programme (duration up to 6 months), after which they can join group sessions. The gym charges a small fee per session for clients attending post treatment group training.

Our clients say:
“The most amazing thing about the gym is the way the service is truly delivered around the client. It works around your life. You don’t need to explain the tears, or why you are only able to do half of what you normally do, or are twenty minutes late or have spent the last five minutes lying on the mat with your eyes closed after an easy exercise because your body is spent. No one makes you feel self-conscious. You are not the odd one out here. It’s just normal. You can’t get that anywhere else. You can talk if you want to talk, or not if you don’t. But when you’re there, you know you are part of a community, that you have support and that you aren’t alone. And you know, whether you push hard or take it easy - you showed up and did something that’s good for you. That’s making you stronger and healthier and more resilient to face your cancer. However you feel when you walk in, you always feel better when you walk out.”

“This gym helped me go from zero to hero in terms of fitness after breast cancer. It provides a safe non judgmental place for those of all shapes and sizes, with hair or without, whether having a good day or not. Most importantly it provided support and laughter when I went into a dark place mentally. I found that once treatment had finished I was completely without professional support and struggled with that.”


Find the Challenge here:

Read ODT Story: Cancer survivor backing gym fundraiser
See the Wellness Gym on Good Sorts:
More about the Wellness Gym: