Level of activity in children undergoing cancer treatment

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2009 Sep;53(3):438-43. doi: 10.1002/pbc.22055.


Background: The diagnosis of cancer bears severe implications for pediatric patients. One immense restriction consists in a reduced level of activity due to different factors. Physical activity affects various aspects of development and can be regarded as an essential part of a child's life. In the present study physical activity in patients undergoing cancer therapy was quantified in order to determine the extent of the restriction and to provide baseline information for the assessment of possible interventions.

Procedure: Physical activity in 80 patients and 45 healthy children matched for age and gender was measured using the StepWatch 3 Activity Monitor (SAM, OrthoCare Innovations).

Results: Pediatric cancer patients, at 2,787 gait cycles (gcs) per day, were significantly less active than their healthy counterparts (8,096 gcs). Patients were significantly more active at home than during inpatient stays (3,185 gcs compared to 1,830 gcs), and patients with bone tumors were less active than those with leukemia regarding both, the amount (1,849 gcs vs. 2,992 gcs) and the intensity of activity.

Conclusion: The present study quantified an often observed but so far hardly assessable problem. Activity in cancer patients is considerably reduced and patients with bone tumors are at increased risk from the detrimental effects of prolonged inactivity. Both our findings and the accepted fact that activity is an essential element of child development confirm the need for interventions tailored to a patient's needs and abilities during the course of treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bone Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / physiopathology
  • Leukemia / therapy
  • Motor Activity*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy