OBJECTIVES: In the last decade, there has been a rapid expansion of physical activity (PA) promotion programmes and interventions targeting people living with and beyond cancer (LWBC). The impact that these initiatives have on long-term maintenance of PA remains under-researched. This study sought to explore the experiences of participants in order to characterise those who have and have not successfully sustained increases in PA following participation in a PA intervention after a diagnosis of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, and identify barriers and facilitators of this behaviour.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews with participants who had previously taken part in a PA programme in the UK, explored current and past PA behaviour and factors that promoted or inhibited regular PA participation. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. Themes and subthemes were identified. Differences between individuals were recognised and a typology of PA engagement was developed.
PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-seven individuals (n=15 male, mean age=66.3 years) with a diagnosis of GI cancer who had participated in one of four interventions designed to encourage PA participation.
RESULTS: Seven themes were identified: disease processes, the role of ageing, emotion and psychological well-being, incorporating PA into everyday life, social interaction, support and self-monitoring and competing demands. A typology with three types describing long-term PA engagement was generated: (1) maintained PA, (2) intermittent PA, (3) low activity. Findings indicate that identifying an enjoyable activity that is appropriate to an individual's level of physical functioning and is highly valued is key to supporting long-term PA engagement.
CONCLUSION: The typology described here can be used to guide stratified and personalised intervention development and support sustained PA engagement by people LWBC.