Barriers and facilitators to exercise among adult cancer survivors in Singapore


Purpose: Exercise can help cancer survivors manage sequela, treatment side effects, improve overall quality of life, and is recommended for most. The purpose of this study was to investigate exercise behavior and factors influencing exercise engagement among cancer survivors at the National Cancer Centre, Singapore (NCCS).

Methods: This cross-sectional study was inclusive of survivors of all cancer types and stages who were at least 21 years of age and had undergone chemotherapy at the NCCS. Surveys were utilized to assess survivor barriers and facilitators to exercise and to retrospectively assess physical activity and exercise behaviors at 4 cancer-related time periods (pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis before, during, or after chemotherapy).

Results: A total of 102 cancer survivors were enrolled; 60% were diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Predominant cancer types included lower gastrointestinal tract (25.5%) and breast cancer (21.6%). Prior to cancer diagnosis, 90.2% of participants reported aerobic activity satisfying NCCN guidelines. Significant reductions in reported exercise, and physical activity, were observed following cancer diagnosis that persisted during chemotherapy. Key exercise facilitators included the desire to remain healthy (86.3%) and to improve sleep and mental well-being (73.5%). Key barriers included side effects of treatment (52.0%). Only 46.1% of survivors reported receiving exercise guidance from healthcare professionals following diagnosis.

Conclusion: Overall, even among this notably active cohort of Singaporean survivors, opportunities for increased exercise engagement throughout the survivorship continuum remain. Increased education regarding the benefits of exercise to survivors as well as guidance regarding exercise modalities including resistance training is greatly needed as well.


oncology, exercise, cancer survivorship, counselling, barriers, facilitators

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