Exercise levels often decline following cancer diagnosis despite growing evidence of its benefits. Treatment side effects, older age, lack of confidence and opportunity to exercise with others in similar circumstances influence this. Our study explored the experiences of people attending a cancer-specific community-based exercise programme (CU Fitter™).
A survey distributed to those attending the programme gathered demographic/clinical information, self-reported exercise levels, information provision and barriers to/benefits of exercise.
Sixty surveys were evaluable from 65/100 returned (62% female, 68% > 60 years, 66% breast/prostate cancer). Most (68%) were receiving treatment. Sixty-eight percent attended classes once or twice weekly. Fifty-five percent received exercise advice after diagnosis, usually from their hospital doctor/nurse. More (73%) had read about exercising, but less used the Internet to source information (32%). Self-reported exercise levels were higher currently than before diagnosis (p = 0.05). Forty-eight percent said their primary barrier to exercising was the physical impact of cancer/treatment. Improving fitness/health (40%) and social support (16%) were the most important gains from the programme. Many (67%) had made other lifestyle changes and intented to keep (50%) or increase (30%) exercising.
This community-based cancer-specific exercise approach engaged people with cancer and showed physical, psychological, and social benefits.
Implications for cancer survivors
Community-grown exercise initiatives bring cancer survivors together creating their own supportive environment. Combining this with instructors familiar with the population and providing an open-ended service may prove particularly motivating and beneficial. Further work is required to provide evidence for this.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H (2012) Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 107:1195–1202
Santin O, Mills M, Treanor C, Donnelly MA (2012) Comparative analysis of the health and well-being of cancer survivors to the general population. Support Care Cancer 20:2545–2552
Segal R, Zwaal C, Green E, Tomasone JR, Loblaw A, Petrella T (2017) Exercise for people with cancer: a systematic review. Curr Oncol 24:40–46
Stout NL, Baima J, Swisher AK, Winters-Stone KM, Welsh J (2017) A systematic review of exercise systematic reviews in the cancer literature (2005–2017). PM R 9:S347–S384
Department of Health. UK Physical activity guidelines – Fact sheets 4 (adults 19–64 years) and 5 (older adults 65+ years). 2011. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-physical-activity-guidelines. Accessed 10 Aug 2017
Rock CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, Meyerhardt J, Courneya KS, Schwartz AL, Bandera ED, Hamilton KK, Grant B, McCullough M, Byers T, Gansler T (2012) Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA Cancer J Clin 62:242–274
Stevinson C, Lydon A, Amir Z (2014) Adherence to physical activity guidelines among cancer support group participants. Eur J Cancer Care 23:199–205
Hawkins M, Buys S, Gren L, Simonsen S, Kirchhoff A, Hashibe M (2017) Do cancer survivors develop healthier lifestyle behaviors than the cancer-free population in the PLCO study? J Cancer Surviv 11:233–245
Henriksson A, Arving C, Johansson B, Igelström H, Nordin K (2016) Perceived barriers to and facilitators of being physically active during adjuvant cancer treatment. Patient Educ Couns 99:1220–1226
Arthur AE, Delk A, Demark-Wahnefried W, Christein JD, Contreras C, Posey JA III, Vickers S, Oster R, Rogers LQ (2016) Pancreatic cancer survivors’ preferences, barriers, and facilitators related to physical activity and diet interventions. J Cancer Surviv 10:981–989
Granger CL, Connolly B, Denehy L, Hart N, Antippa P, Lin K-Y, Parry SM (2017) Understanding factors influencing physical activity and exercise in lung cancer: a systematic review. Support Care Cancer 25:983–999
Smith L, Crocker H, Fisher A, Williams K, Wardle J, Beeken RJ (2017) Cancer survivors’ attitudes towards and knowledge of physical activity, sources of information, and barriers and facilitators of engagement: a qualitative study. Eur J Cancer Care 26. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.12641
Clifford B, Mizrahi D, Sandler C, Barry B, Simar D, Wakefield C, Goldstein D (2018) Barriers and facilitators of exercise experienced by cancer survivors: a mixed methods systematic review. Support Care Cancer 26:685–700
Cummins C, Kayes NM, Reeve J, Smith G, MacLeod R, McPherson KM (2017) Navigating physical activity engagement following a diagnosis of cancer: a qualitative exploration. Eur J Cancer Care 26. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.12608
Kirkham A, Neil-Sztramko S, Morgan J, Hodson S, Weller S, McRae T, Campbell K (2016) Fee-for-service cancer rehabilitation programs improve health-related quality of life. Curr Oncol 23:233–240
Godin G (2011) The Godin-Shephard leisure-time physical activity questionnaire. Health Fit J Can 4:18–22
Amireault S, Godin G (2015) The Godin-Shephard leisure-time physical activity questionnaire: validity evidence supporting its use for classifying healthy adults into active and insufficiently active categories. Percept Mot Skills 120:604–622
Buffart LM, Kalter J, Sweegers MG et al (2017) Effects and moderators of exercise on quality of life and physical function in patients with cancer: an individual patient data meta-analysis of 34 RCTs. Cancer Treat Rev 52:91–104
Burke S, Wurz A, Bradshaw A, Saunders S, West MA, Brunet J (2017) Physical activity and quality of life in cancer survivors: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research. Cancers 9(5):E53
Cormie P, Zopf E, Zhang X, Schmitz K (2017) The impact of exercise on cancer mortality, recurrence, and treatment-related adverse effects. Epidemiol Rev 39:71–92
Knox ECL, Esliger DW, Biddle SJH, Sherar LB (2013) Lack of knowledge of physical activity guidelines: can physical activity promotion campaigns do better? BMJ Open 3:e003633
Chatterjee R, Chapman T, Brannan MG, Varney J (2017) GPs’ knowledge, use, and confidence in national physical activity and health guidelines and tools: a questionnaire-based survey of general practice in England. Br J Gen Pract 67:e668–e675
Snyder LB (2007) Health communication campaigns and their impact on behavior. J Nutr Educ Behav 39:S32–S40
Weinstein ND (1988) The precaution adoption process. Health Psychol 7:355–386
Macmillan move more: physical activity the underrated ‘wonder drug’. 2011. https://www.macmillan.org.uk/documents/aboutus/newsroom/physicalactivityreport.pdf. Accessed 02 Mar 2018
O’Leary KA, Estabrooks CA, Olson K, Cumming C (2007) Information acquisition for women facing surgical treatment for breast cancer: influencing factors and selected outcomes. Patient Educ Couns 69:5–19
Jones LW, Courneya KS (2002) Exercise discussions during cancer treatment consultations. Cancer Pract 10:66–74
Cantwell M, Walsh D, Furlong B et al (2018) Healthcare professionals’ knowledge and practice of physical activity promotion in cancer care: challenges and solution. Eur J Cancer Care 27(2):e12795
Keogh JWL, Olsen A, Climstein M, Sargeant S, Jones L (2017) Benefits and barriers of cancer practitioners discussing physical activity with their cancer patients. J Cancer Educ 32(1):11–15
Queen M, Karatzaferi C, Bloxham SR et al (2016) How can physical activity referral rates for breast cancer patients be increased? Front Oncol 12(6):198
The Health and Social Care Information Centre (2009) Health survey for England 2008: physical activity and fitness. NHS - Health and Social Care Information Centre, London
Blanchard CM, Denniston MM, Baker F, Ainsworth SR, Courneya KS, Hann DM, Gesme DH, Reding D, Flynn T, Kennedy JS (2003) Do adults change their lifestyle behaviors after a cancer diagnosis? Am J Health Behav 27:246–256
Fernandez S, Franklin J, Amlani N, DeMilleVille C, Lawson D, Smith J (2015) Physical activity and cancer: a cross-sectional study on the barriers and facilitators to exercise during cancer treatment. Can Oncol Nurs J 25:37–48
Tarasenko Y, Chen C, Schoenberg N (2017) Self-reported physical activity levels of older cancer survivors: results from the 2014 national health interview survey. J Am Geriatr Soc 65:e39–e44
Grimmett C, Wardle J, Steptoe A (2009) Health behaviours in older cancer survivors in the English longitudinal study of ageing. Eur J Cancer 45:2180–2186
Gjerset GM, Fossa SD, Courneya KS, Skovlund E, Thorsen L (2011) Exercise behaviour in cancer survivors and associated factors. J Cancer Surviv 5:35–43
Yang D, Hausien O, Aqeel M, Klonis A, Foster J, Renshaw D, Thomas R (2017) Physical activity levels and barriers to exercise referral among patients with cancer. Patient Educ Couns 100(7):1402–1407
Blaney JM, Lowe-Strong A, Rankin-Watt J, Campbell A, Gracey JH (2013) Cancer survivors’ exercise barriers, facilitators and preferences in the context of fatigue, quality of life and physical activity participation: a questionnaire–survey. Psycho Oncol 22:186–194
Leach C, Bellizzi K, Hurria A, Reeve B (2016) Is it my cancer or am I just getting older?: impact of cancer on age-related health conditions of older cancer survivors. Cancer 122:1946–1953
Midtgaard J, Hammer N, Andersen C, Larsen A, Bruun D, Jarden M (2015) Cancer survivors’ experience of exercise-based cancer rehabilitation - a meta-synthesis of qualitative research. Acta Oncol 54:609–617
Baumann FT, Zopf EM, Bloch W (2012) Clinical exercise interventions in prostate cancer patients- a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Support Care Cancer 20:221–233
Moreton R, Stutz R, Robinson S, Mulla M, Winter M, Roberts J, Hillsdon M (2017) Evaluation of the Macmillan physical activity behaviour change care pathway. Final report 2017. Leicester, CFE Research
Swartz MC, Lewis ZH, Lyons EJ, Jennings K, Middleton A, Deer RR, Arnold D, Dresser K, Ottenbacher KJ, Goodwin JS (2017) Effect of home- and community-based physical activity interventions on physical function among cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 98:1652–1665
Philips SM, Conroy DE, Keadle SK, Pellegrini CA, Lloyd GR, Penedo FJ, Spring B (2017) Breast cancer survivors’ preferences for technology-supported exercise interventions. Support Care Cancer 25:3243–3252
Puszkiewicz P, Roberts A, Smith L, Wardle J, Fisher A (2016) Assessment of cancer survivors’ experiences of using a publicly available physical activity mobile application. JMIR Cancer 2:e7. https://doi.org/10.2196/cancer.5380
We would like to thank all the respondents who found time to complete the survey.
Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) Research Governance and Ethics Committee (Ref No: 16/024/HAR) granted ethical approval for the study.
Conflict of interest
Susan Catt and Helena Harder have no conflicts of interest to declare. Jan Sheward and Erica Sheward are Trustees of Cancer United™ (No.1155747), a registered cancer support charity based in West Sussex, UK through which the CU Fitter™ programme is delivered.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
Catt, S., Sheward, J., Sheward, E. et al. Cancer survivors’ experiences of a community-based cancer-specific exercise programme: results of an exploratory survey. Support Care Cancer 26, 3209–3216 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-018-4179-0
- Health behaviour
- Physical activity
- Quality of life