Physical activity programs for children diagnosed with cancer: an international environmental scan

  • Amanda Wurz
  • Julia Daeggelmann
  • Natalia Albinati
  • Liam Kronlund
  • Carolina Chamorro-Viña
  • S. Nicole Culos-ReedEmail author
Review Article



Physical activity programs for children diagnosed with cancer may enhance health and quality of life. However, it is unknown where and in what capacity such programs are being offered internationally.


To identify physical activity programs for children diagnosed with cancer and summarize program characteristics.


Five data sources were searched to identify physical activity programs offered to children diagnosed with cancer. Following confirmation of eligibility, correspondents were sent a series of open-ended questions via email. Data were extracted from responses and summarized descriptively and narratively.


Of the 140 unique correspondents contacted, 46 programs, in 10 countries, met eligibility criteria. Responses to open-ended follow-up questions were obtained from 36 programs and were subsequently included in the content analysis. Internationally, the majority of programs are being offered to children in Europe, with mixed cancer types, at different stages of the cancer trajectory. There is relatively equal distribution with regard to the setting in which programs are offered (i.e., community, hospital, combination). All correspondents reported that their program is professionally supervised, and most require that children obtain medical clearance prior to participating. There is considerable variability in terms of other key program (e.g., funding) and physical activity characteristics (e.g., frequency).


Findings from this environmental scan highlight where and in what capacity physical activity programs are being offered, providing guidance for those seeking to develop/implement physical activity programs themselves. Moreover, results highlight the current state of practice, underscoring the necessity of international networks, multi-site collaborations, and public relations to ensure all children diagnosed with cancer have access to physical activity programs.


Exercise Pediatric Community programs Oncology Knowledge translation 



The authors would like to thank Jena Shank (MSc student) for assisting with Google searches and reviewing reference lists of relevant systematic reviews, Karine Fournier (expert librarian) for her guidance and assistance developing the search strategy, and correspondents who responded to requests for information and clarification.

Funding information

This manuscript was prepared while the first author was supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All co-authors have reviewed the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and declare that they have nothing to disclose.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (study identification: HREBA.CC-17-0329) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was waived for this study and was implied by specific action (i.e., responding to emails).

Supplementary material

520_2019_4669_MOESM1_ESM.docx (117 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 117 kb)
520_2019_4669_MOESM2_ESM.docx (94 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 93.9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda Wurz
    • 1
  • Julia Daeggelmann
    • 2
  • Natalia Albinati
    • 3
  • Liam Kronlund
    • 3
  • Carolina Chamorro-Viña
    • 4
  • S. Nicole Culos-Reed
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Human KineticsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Cardiology and Sports Medicine, Department of Molecular and Cellular Sports MedicineGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of KinesiologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  4. 4.Kids Cancer Care Foundation of AlbertaCalgaryCanada
  5. 5.Department of Oncology, Cumming School of MedicineUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  6. 6.Alberta Health Services, Cancer Care, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Department of Psychosocial ResourcesCalgaryCanada

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