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Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 397–405 | Cite as

Prescribing fitness apps for people with cancer: a preliminary assessment of content and quality of commercially available apps

  • R. Martín PayoEmail author
  • J. Harris
  • J. Armes
Article

Abstract

Purpose

The benefits of physical activity for cancer survivors are increasingly recognised and smartphone applications are available to assist them to become more physically active. Cancer clinicians, however, lack confidence about which physical activity apps to recommend as evidence on their quality and content is limited. Therefore, we reviewed freely available commercial physical activity/fitness apps to systematically assess their behavioural change content and quality of their design.

Methods

Systematic searches of the app stores for Apple and Android operating systems were conducted and apps were screened to identify free apps appropriate for cancer survivors. Quality was assessed using the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) and behavioural content was evaluated using the Behavioural Change Techniques Taxonomy (BCTT).

Results

Of 341 apps identified, 67 were judged appropriate for cancer survivors and 46% combined aerobic and strength/stretching content. The overall number of behavioural change techniques (BCT) included was 3.96 (SD = 2.09), with the most frequent being ‘feedback on behaviour’ and ‘goal setting behaviour’. The mean scores for objective and subjective quality were 4.11 (SD = 0.59) and 3.07 (SD = 0.91) respectively (range 0 to 5). Finally, a modest positive correlation was found between the number of BCT and the quality of engagement, awareness and knowledge as assessed by the MARS.

Conclusion

Only a fifth of retrieved physical activity apps contained potentially suitable content for people affected by cancer. Overall, most apps we reviewed appeared to perform well in terms of their objective quality, but less well at promoting knowledge and awareness or help seeking related to physical activity.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Many physical activity apps are available but the combined use of MARS and BCTT suggests that not all of them are suitable to the needs is a promising and feasible approach for assessing the applicability, usability and content of physical activity of apps employed by cancer survivors and this study is a first step toward developing a guide.

Keywords

Physical activity Colorectal neoplasms Mobile applications Telemedicine 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

The procedures performed in this study do not require ethical approval.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11764_2019_760_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Medicina y Ciencias de la SaludUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain
  2. 2.School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

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