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Support systems for mixed-site recovering cancer patients to sustain physical activity: a qualitative study

Martyn Queen, Saul Bloxham, Phil Brown


Rationale, aims and objectives: Uptake and adherence to physical activity (PA) programmes for recovering cancer patients remain low with only 20% of patients meeting the UK guidelines of 150 minutes a week. The aim of our study was to examine the support systems that enabled a group of cancer patients to sustain PA for 6 months.

Method: Fourteen mixed site cancer patients aged 43-70 (11 women, 3 men) participated in a 2-phase PA intervention that took place at a University in the South West of England, UK. The intervention consisted of an 8-week structured exercise programme and a 4-month period of independent PA. Semi-structured interviews were employed to collect the data and a grounded theory approach was used for the analysis.

Results: We found that different types of support were required for each stage of the intervention. Internal support was necessary while undertaking a structured PA programme. External support was necessary to sustain PA to 4-month follow-up. The two aspects of internal support were identified that enabled the patients to adhere to the programme; support from exercise professionals and peer support from patients on the programme. External support that enabled the patients to sustain independent PA to 4-month follow-up was support from close partners or from a spouse.

Conclusions: Our study has provided valuable insight into internal support systems that enable recovering mixed-site cancer patients to adhere to a structured PA programme and external support from close relationships to sustain independent PA for an additional 4 months.


Grounded theory, health, person-centered healthcare, physical activity, qualitative research, recovering cancer patients, support systems

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