Understanding the importance of physical activity partners for women diagnosed with cancer


Many female cancer survivors report lack of social support as a barrier for physical activity (PA), but this association is underexamined. Three studies were used to understand social support in female cancer survivors. In study 1, N=200 (Mage=54.0, SD=13.4 years) breast cancer survivors completed an online questionnaire and 70% identified finding a PA partner as a key PA barrier. In study 2, an online platform was developed to match female cancer survivors with a PA partner (ActiveMatch; www.activematch.ca). Women who signed up for ActiveMatch (N=165; Mage=47.0, SD=10.0) reported wanting one partner (95%) and preferred walking as PA (90%). In study 3, multiple case studies were completed with three dyads (N=6, Mage=51.8, SD=8.7) matched for personality. For 28 days, dyads wore pedometers and completed daily questionnaires. Case 1 dyad was not in contact often (6/28 days) and walked less on days where there was no contact. Both women reported being incompatible on preferred method of contact (i.e., receiving social support). Case 2 dyad supported one another 32% of the days. While they walked fewer total steps on days where there was contact, this difference was less compared to case 1. Case 3 dyad supported each other for 46% of the days. One member increased her steps and the other maintained. They reported setting a common goal to motivate themselves. Overall, findings highlight importance of social support for PA in samples of survivors, demonstrate that phone calls and texts are effective social support modes, and importance of partners is highlighted.