Increasing physical activity in Cancer Survivors through a Text-messaging Exercise motivation Program (ICanSTEP)

Support Care Cancer. 2021 Dec;29(12):7339-7349. doi: 10.1007/s00520-021-06281-y. Epub 2021 May 28.


Purpose: Cancer survivors are often sedentary. Self-monitoring may promote physical activity through self-activation. We conducted a pilot trial to evaluate whether wearable activity tracker with personalized text message feedback would increase physical activity.

Methods: We enrolled 30 patients with solid tumor cancers into a non-randomized prospective intervention trial (NCT02627079): 15 had completed treatment in the past year and 15 under active treatment. Each participant received an activity tracker and daily text messages personalized to their activity level. We assessed patient-reported outcomes and 6-min walk (6 MW) at baseline and 3 months.

Results: Twenty-six participants completed the study. There was substantial variation in baseline activity. Overall, 39% of participants increased their steps taken by at least 20%, and 23% increased their 6 MW distance by 20% or more. More participants who had completed treatment strongly agreed (73%) that the intervention increased their exercise levels than those receiving active treatment (47%). At 3 months, there was a significant improvement in median Beck Depression Inventory-II and Godin Leisure Index composite scores. At 6 months, 72% still wore their activity tracker at least 4 days per week.

Conclusion: We found that the intervention was well-accepted with a high completion rate at 3 months and continued self-use at 6 months. In this pilot study of combined activity tracker and motivational messaging, we found a signal for increased physical activity over a 3-month period. Future research is needed to study this technique for its impact on activity and other physical and psychological measures of well-being.

Implication for cancer survivors: Activity tracker with personalized motivational messaging may be useful in promoting physical activity in cancer survivors.

Keywords: Activity tracker; Cancer survivors; Exercise; Self-efficacy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Text Messaging*