Impact of COVID-19 on an established physical activity and behaviour change support programme for cancer survivors: An exploratory survey of the Macmillan Move More service for Northern Ireland

Malcolm Brown, Dominic O'Connor, Claire Murphy, Maura McClean, Alexandra McMeekin, Gillian Prue

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Abstract

Purpose:
The recent coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected the delivery of routine cancer care and supportive services. The Macmillan Move More Northern Ireland (MMNI) programme provides access to physical activity and behavioural change support before, during and after cancer treatment. This evaluation details the impact of the pandemic on the MMNI participants and identifies methods to adapt service delivery.

Methods:
A multiple-choice and short answer online survey was sent to 730 MMNI participants, to investigate the impact of the initial, national COVID-19 lockdown. Specifically, the survey examined physical activity patterns, the physical/emotional/social impact of restrictions and attitudes towards digitally supported exercise. Free text responses were analysed thematically with findings verified within the research team.

Results:
377 participants completed the survey (52% response rate). 50% of respondents had breast cancer, with 36 other diagnoses registered (82% were female). Participants reported physical activity levels decreased during restrictions, citing isolation; declining health/fitness; lack of access and motivation. The dataset trended towards women and those diagnosed with breast cancer. 71% reported the pandemic impacted their physical (n=119) and/or psychosocial (n=231) wellbeing. Many respondents were availing of digitally supported exercise, whilst half of males did not engage (46%). Finally, 80% of respondents were interested in using a MMNI smart application.

Conclusion:
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected participant physical activity levels. Supervised classes were the most popular (pre-pandemic), with enforced leisure centre closures prompting this reduction. The pandemic has negatively affected the psychosocial wellbeing (mental health) of participants, compounded by the restrictions imposed on the traditional delivery of MMNI. This impact is felt equally across cancer types. Participants with breast cancer are the most engaged in using digital technology to access exercise. Although underrepresented, men require greater targeting to ensure equality in access to online services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Early online date03 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 03 Apr 2021

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