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Physical activity equivalent in cancer survivors and the population

Nov 22, 2013 |

Cancer survivors have similar physical activity levels as those who have never had cancer, according to new research at the Cancer Prevention Centre, part of the School of Population and Public Health, in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.

The results were published on November 20, 2013 online (ahead of print) in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.


Physical activity levels resume after surviving cancer

The researchers extracted data from the 2005–2006 and 2009–2010 Canadian Community Health Survey. Respondents were asked whether they currently have or had cancer in the past and about physical activity. Based on the levels of activity they reported, the survey participants were classified as inactive, moderately active, or active. The Canadian Community Health Survey is an annual survey undertaken by Statistics Canada, and this analysis was based on about 98,000 people.

“It is encouraging to note that people who had been diagnosed with cancer in the past had the same levels of physical activity as people in the general population,” said Sarah Neil, the study’s first author and a student in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. “Individuals dealing with a current cancer diagnosis were less active than cancer survivors and people who had never had cancer, which could be explained by a number of reasons, including fatigue due to cancer treatments.”

“People undergoing cancer therapy and those with a history of cancer have much to gain from participation in physical activity,” said Carolyn Gotay, a study author and Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre. “Other research has shown that physical activity during and after cancer treatment can improve well-being and quality of life. It’s important to note that physical activity was much lower than recommended in all the groups we studied—general population, cancer patients, and cancer survivors. Health care providers should encourage physical activity for everyone.”


The authors of this paper are Sarah Neil, Carolyn Gotay, and Kristin Campbell.

Dr. Gotay is a Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC and holds the Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention. The Cancer Prevention Centre is a partnership between the School of Population and Public Health at UBC and the Canadian Cancer Society.

The research was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, the Canadian Cancer Society British Columbia-Yukon, and a Canadian Graduate Scholarship Doctoral award from the Canadian Institute for Health Research (to Sarah Neil).

Link to publication information