Breast cancer survivors' perspectives of a group-based physical activity program


Regular physical activity (PA) for women treated for breast cancer can improve length and quality of life by reducing the risk of chronic diseases, disability, and mortality. However, most women are inactive or insufficiently active post-treatment. Structured group-based PA programs offered within the community can be an effective strategy to promote PA in this population, as well as improve social, psychological, and physical wellbeing. To encourage participation in such programs, it is necessary to understand barriers and motives related to women’s participation to ensure group-based PA programs are successful in the long-term. The objective of this qualitative study was to explore the perceived barriers and motives experienced by women attending an 8-week group-based PA program offered within a community setting. Women who had completed treatment for breast cancer (N = 7; Mage = 55.29 years) participated in two semi-structured interviews during the first and last week the program. Thematic analysis was used to identify themes of barriers and motives (Braun & Clark, 2006). The identified barriers could be subdivided into factors external (i.e., environmental, competing roles and responsibilities) and internal (i.e., physical, cancer-specific) to the women while the identified motives were internal (i.e., gaining social support, being around similar others, feeling a sense of personal fulfillment, acquiring health benefits, feeling a sense of normality, gaining a sense of control over one’s life). Findings provide further evidence that group-based PA programs can be beneficial as a strategy to enhance wellbeing while increasing PA levels in breast cancer survivors. Further, they underscore the need for health professionals designing and delivering such programs to be aware of the perceived barriers and motives to optimize participation in group-based PA in this population. 

Acknowledgments: This manuscript was prepared while a Canadian Cancer Society Career Development Award in Prevention supported the third author.