Samantha Harris is the charismatic, super-fit, Emmy, Award-winning television host who you may know best from Dancing with the Stars and Entertainment Tonight.
And, to the M&F Hers family, she is also a much-celebrated serial cover star, having graced the front page on no less than four occasions. But, when a shock breast cancer diagnosis in 2014 forced her to step back in order to defeat the disease, Harris was forced to regain her confidence and rebuild a strained relationship with exercise.
Thankfully, she is now fighting fit and has made it her life’s mission to study the effects of being active and to identify ways to keep us healthy, inspiring countless cancer sufferers through her inspirational health coaching, and upbeat Instagram posts. At 49 years young, Harris says that thanks to re-evaluating her relationship with fitness, she’s never felt healthier, and she is excited about collaborating on a new Yoga program that will get you moving again, just as she did.
“On the first Muscle & Fitness Hers cover that I did [in July 2002], I was literally the hired fitness model,” says Harris, who made the cover again in 2004, 2005, and 2008 as a TV star in her own right. “As I got out of college, I figured out fitness for myself. I realized that under this soft-bodied, Minnesota girl, there was actually this muscle that I discovered, that I had no idea was there! I loved getting stronger. I loved the feeling of it and it was so empowering.”
When Samantha Harris Got Knocked Down, She Came Back Stronger
Having been diagnosed with stage II invasive breast cancer at age 40, Harris’ confidence took a devastating hit, and not least because she always considered herself to be fit and healthy prior to the illness. “To be blindsided by a cancer diagnosis was, as you can imagine, incredibly shocking,” she says. “The biggest challenge I had, and I’m sure my surgeon laughed at me because, the moment I woke up from surgery it wasn’t ‘hey, did everything go well?’ it was ‘hey, when can I start exercising again?’”
Still, as millions of people around the world can attest, returning to physical activity after some time away is easier said than done. “I had to limit my mobility for six weeks,” says Harris. “I had three surgeries and so it was six weeks before I could go back to the gym.” Even on her return to exercise, there were complex challenges ahead that many cancer survivors will surely relate to. “There were so many insecurities about getting back to fitness,” shares Harris, bravely. “I’d had a double mastectomy (where both breasts are removed at the same time), so my entire chest wall had gone through a very elaborate and traumatic surgery. I had eleven lymph nodes (these are organs that contain cells for the immune system) removed from my arm, which meant I had incredible limitation to my range of motion. 8 years on, I still very rarely do a full, wide, pushup.”
Harris began to make her physical progress through a great deal of manual stimulation, such as stretching, and became passionate about learning more around the causes, and cures, for chronic disease. Her book, “Your Healthiest Healthy” made its debut as an Amazon best seller and has been praised by celebrities like Kris Jenner and Brooke Burke. But being active is not just for celebrities and the fit and strong. Harris wants her fellow cancer survivors to gain the benefits as well, and she says Yoga is a valuable tool to achieve just that.
To this end, the popular presenter has teamed up with Susan G. Komen and YogaWorks to launch “YogaWorks Pink.” The program offers three months of free live and on-demand Yoga classes hosted by top experts in the fields of yoga and regenerative health. “I could have really used a program like this,” says Harris, who is now a professional health coach and a national ambassador for Susan G. Komen.
Samantha Harris Believes That Yoga Is Awesome for Building Strength and Confidence
Yoga has long been shown to offer multiple benefits for cancer survivors. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that yoga reduced fatigue in breast cancer survivors, with participants reporting a significant improvement in their quality of life after undertaking a 12-week yoga program. Additionally, becoming more active will likely benefit sleep quality, cardiovascular fitness, and overall well-being in cancer survivors. Generally, yoga is considered to be a safe and effective complementary therapy for cancer survivors, and it can be easily adapted to individual needs and abilities, just make sure to seek the advice of a health professional if you are uncertain about your individual circumstances.
“I know that, for me, exercise has become so much of my identity,” says Harris, who can also be seen hosting “Tug of Words” on the Game Show Network. “I feel like myself when I’m moving my body. I’m more productive if I get a workout in. I am calmer, and more patient, and I am more present. All of that went without saying, prior to my diagnosis, but since cancer, what I realize now is the importance of integrating even more stress reducing techniques, to keep that inflammation, which comes from chronic stress… keep that at bay. Yoga allowed me, post cancer, to reclaim my body, to work on my balance and my stamina. And, the poses offered through YogaWorks Pink have been adapted for the specific needs of the breast cancer community.”
Samantha Harris Has Redefined Her Relationship with Health and Fitness
Far from having her relationship with health and fitness destroyed as a result of her cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgeries, Samantha Harris has re-defined what being strong means to her, and these days it’s about far more than magazine covers. “When I was hosting Dancing with the Stars, and all my entertainment news shows, all I wanted to do was look good in a dress on television,” she says. “When I came back to exercise after cancer, I realized that I needed to exercise my body so that I could feel what my body could do for me. How can this body, this one vessel that I have for a lifetime carry me through, hopefully, what will be a very long life; able bodied and sound of mind so that I can hopefully one day play with my grandkids? That is the goal that keeps me going forward.”
Find out more about YogaWorks Pink and sign up free here!