Wearing a fitness device gets cancer survivors active

Friday 26 April, 2019

Wearable fitness technology could be used to improve the amount of physical activity done by cancer survivors, found researchers from Cancer Council Victoria in new study published in Cancer this week. It showed wearing a fitness band increases levels of physical activity by more than an hour a week, as well as decreasing sitting time.

The ACTIVATE Trial found the combination of mobile health tools and coaching successfully increased physical activity and decreased sitting time in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors.

At the end of the 12-week trial, the group wearing fitness trackers performed 69 minutes more physical activity than the control group who did not wear the trackers, and sat for 37 minutes less per day. Activity levels were accurately measured using research-grade accelerometers, devices that measure body movement.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Brigid Lynch from Cancer Council Victoria’s Cancer Epidemiology Division, said the findings were significant as most cancer survivors are insufficiently active.

“We know that for breast cancer survivors, regular participation in moderate-vigorous physical activity is associated with diminished treatment side-effects, enhanced quality of life, and may reduce risk of cancer recurrence and death. Despite these benefits, many breast cancer survivors do not achieve the physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes of moderatevigorous physical activity per week,”

A/Prof Lynch said. A/Prof Lynch said the results from the ACTIVATE Trial demonstrate that the use of wearable technology presents an inexpensive and adaptable opportunity to facilitate more active lifestyles for cancer survivors.

“Given their low cost and wide reach, fitness devices are ideal tools for health promotion programs. This is particularly important for survivors who live in rural or regional areas where their access to supervised exercise is limited by geographic reach, availability of facilities, appropriately qualified professionals and cost.”

The ACTIVATE Trial was funded by World Cancer Research Fund, with additional support from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

World Cancer Research Fund’s Senior Research Manager, Dr Anna Diaz Font, said: “More and more people are surviving cancer thanks to early detection and improved treatments. Therefore, it is vital that we know not only what can improve cancer survivors’ quality of life and reduce their risk of recurrence, but how we can empower them to make these behaviour changes. This research shows the impact of wearable technology on increasing physical activity time, which is innovative and cost effective.

“We are so proud to be able to fund research such as A/Prof Lynch’s which will have a real impact on people living with and beyond cancer.”

Almost 70 per cent of the group who were provided fitness bands increased the moderatevigorous physical activity over the studied period, and more than 60 per cent decreased their average sitting time.

The ACTIVATE Trial researchers followed-up the participants for another 12 weeks following the initial study, and found the women who had received the intervention maintained their level of physical activity. “We had expected to see a drop off in physical activity after the health coaching element stopped after the initial 12 weeks. Instead, on average physical activity levels increased by a further 14 minutes per week,” reported A/Prof Lynch.