What are important factors for physical activity peer-partners among women with cancer?


Engagement in physical activity (PA) and long-term PA maintenance can be challenging for women living beyond a cancer diagnosis. Social support literature suggests that peer-partners may provide various forms of social support as a mechanism for initiating and maintaining PA. The purpose of this study was to assess what women diagnosed with cancer were seeking from a PA partner through ActiveMatch.ca, a platform designed to help women with cancer find an exercise partner. Participants (N = 199, Mage = 50.06 years) reported their reasons for wanting an exercise partner through an open-ended question when registering for the website. Using an inductive content analysis, seven categories were identified and coded within higher-order themes related to processes and outcomes. Two process categories included an understanding that women wanted to develop social support (i.e., desire to have a partner from whom to provide/receive support) and motivation (i.e., desire to have a partner to provide reason/drive for PA). Five outcomes categories included: provide motivation for others (i.e., impact partner’s life and help them through PA), shared accountability/adherence/commitment (i.e., help with regular PA participation, activity maintenance, and goal setting), health (i.e., help improve one’s physical and/or mental health, or to return to ‘normal’), weight loss (i.e., help one lose weight), and increase PA (i.e., help increase activity). These findings can inform the ways researchers design peer interventions, create peer-partner matches, and facilitate social support to improve PA engagement and maintenance for women living beyond a cancer diagnosis.