Program Offering Financial Incentives Encourages Breast Cancer Patients to Exercise More, Study Finds

Program Offering Financial Incentives Encourages Breast Cancer Patients to Exercise More, Study Finds

Physical exercise may help breast cancer survivors overcome many of the side effects associated with cancer therapy, but studies show that up to 70% of patients don’t exercise enough.

So researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan set out to find a way to motivate these women to be more active. They developed a program called Project MOVE, which offers “action grants” – incentives of up to $2,000 – to breast cancer groups to help them implement programs that promote physical activity.

They found that these small financial incentives were enough to increase physical activity among breast cancer survivors.

Results were published in the study, “Acceptability and satisfaction of project MOVE: A pragmatic feasibility trial aimed at increasing physical activity in female breast cancer survivors,” in the journal Psycho-Oncology.

“Many of the available programs such as dragon boating, yoga and hiking are seen as exclusive and may not be of interest to all women treated for breast cancer,” Cristina Caperchione, PhD, associate professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.

“Our approach supported community-based initiatives designed and implemented by breast cancer survivors themselves. Groups developed their interventions based on their own needs and preferences, and these reflected any unique circumstances and barriers that limited them from being active,” she said.

A previous action grant scheme had been set up to stimulate personal growth and improve access to social and health services. Project MOVE used this program as a model to encourage physical activity among breast cancer survivors.

Caperchione and her colleagues invited breast cancer groups to apply for the microgrants to fund initiatives that would motivate breast cancer survivors to be physically active. After careful review, successful applicant groups were selected for funding.

The five applicant groups who were not chosen were given feedback and encouraged to revise and resubmit their applications.

In total, the program included 72 participants, including 57 breast cancer survivors, with a mean age of 58.5 years. Patients were asked about the effectiveness of the program in a six-month follow-up survey.

In the five-question survey, participants were asked to rate their Project MOVE experience, based on satisfaction, acceptability, and appropriateness.

The opinion was almost unanimous among breast cancer survivors, with 96% of them saying that the program was appropriate for their needs, and 86% reported to be satisfied with the program. Seventy percent said they even learned about new physical activities.

Several participants said they would continue to be physically active after having a positive experience with Project MOVE.

“One of our key findings is that Project MOVE offered an opportunity for women to be active with others in a similar position,” said Joan Bottorff, PhD, a professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing and one of the study’s authors. “This fostered social support and helped build autonomy and confidence in their ability to be physically active. The participants changed their outlook from being physically limited to capable.”

Caperchione highlighted how physical exercise can not only minimize side effects from cancer treatment but can also improve breast cancer survivors’ overall health.

“Physical activity has been associated with numerous health benefits for cancer survivors including weight management, reduced pain and fatigue, reduced depression and anxiety, reduced mortality and breast cancer reoccurrence,” she said. “This approach may lead to similar physical activity interventions for diverse cancer survivors, because it has the potential to accommodate a wide range of interests and needs.”

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