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



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.

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  1. The list of 13 relevant systematic reviews is available upon request from the corresponding author.

  2. One program that reported being translated from a research project did not have an associated publication.

  3. The program is open to children diagnosed with cancer, but has not yet had any participate.


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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.


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

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Correspondence to S. Nicole Culos-Reed.

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Wurz, A., Daeggelmann, J., Albinati, N. et al. Physical activity programs for children diagnosed with cancer: an international environmental scan. Support Care Cancer 27, 1153–1162 (2019).

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  • Exercise
  • Pediatric
  • Community programs
  • Oncology
  • Knowledge translation