Exercise Interventions for Women with Ovarian Cancer: A Realist Review

Deirdre McGrath*, Peter O’Halloran, Gillian Prue, Malcolm Brown, Joanne Millar, Adrina O’Donnell, Lisa McWilliams, Claire Murphy, Gwyneth Hinds, Joanne Reid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
83 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Despite evidence indicating the benefits of exercise interventions for women with ovarian cancer both during and following treatment, uptake is poor. There is limited research exploring the implementation of such interventions for this cohort of women. The purpose of this review was to identify implementation theories in relation to exercise interventions for women with stages I−IV ovarian cancer, both during and following treatment; to explain positive and negative contextual factors, which may help or hinder implementation; and to develop a theory on how exercise interventions for women with ovarian cancer may be implemented.

Methods: This realist review sourced literature from five electronic databases: CINAHL plus, Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and Google Scholar. Methodological rigour was assessed using the relevant critical appraisal skills programme tools.
Results: Nine papers were included. Two intervention stages were identified: first, optimising uptake by providing education to patients on the benefits of exercise, approaching patients when symptoms are adequately managed and offering a personalised exercise programme; second, adherence and retention are influenced by the provision of an “autoregulated” exercise programme with additional supportive infrastructure, individualised goal setting and symptom management support where required.

Conclusion: Women with ovarian cancer are reluctant to engage in exercise interventions, despite the supporting evidence in terms of positive clinical outcomes. This realist review elucidates underlying mechanisms and important contextual factors that will support and guide the implementation of exercise interventions for this cohort of women.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere720
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: Deirdre McGrath received Ph.D. funding from the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • ovarian cancer
  • exercise intervention
  • implementation
  • realist review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Policy
  • Health Information Management
  • Leadership and Management


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