Factors influencing physical activity participation among people living with or beyond cancer: a systematic scoping review

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It has been posited that physical activity (PA) has the potential to improve health outcomes and the health-related quality of life of people living with or beyond cancer. Despite the well-documented health benefits of PA, there is a low level of PA among cancer patients. A systematic scoping review was conducted to investigate attitudes, perceptions, preferences and barriers vs. facilitators to cancer patients’ PA participation.
Methods: A systematic search was performed across four automated databases (PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO and Medline) in keeping with the PRISMA guideline. All cancer types were included, and any age/gender groups were eligible. Both qualitative and quantitative studies were included. The Health Belief Model provided a conceptual framework for the conduct of the scoping review as well as guiding thinking to inform evidence-based interventions.
Results: Ninety-eight articles were included in this review. Nearly half of the studies focused on mixed cancer sites; breast cancer was the most commonly examined cancer type (19%). Post-treatment was the most commonly investigated stage (33%), followed by studies of mixed stages of the cancer trajectory (27%), the acute treatment stage (23%) and pre-treatment stage (1%). Patient treatment stage was not reported in 16% of studies. Cancer patients reported positive attitudes to PA and recognized its benefits for health and wellbeing. Cancer-related side effects (e.g. fatigue) were a leading physiological barrier to PA participation, whereas effective symptom management techniques/tools acted as a powerful facilitator. Psychosocial barriers included low motivation and kinesiophobia, and perceived health benefits and social support/guidance by healthcare providers were significant facilitators. Inaccessible fitness facilities hindered cancer patients’ PA engagement though the availability of tailored amenities appeared to be a strong facilitator. PA preferences varied in terms of type, place, time, company and source of information and pointed to the need for individualized PA programs.
There is a need for further research to identify barriers and facilitators to PA that are faced by patients with particular cancer types. Recommended PA promoting-strategies involve including exercise science professionals in healthcare teams and ensuring that fitness facilities are accessible.
Original languageEnglish
Article number50
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 06 Apr 2021


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