Exercise has been shown to improve quality of life for cancer survivors. Despite these benefits, exercise is a poorly utilised strategy in the management of lung cancer patients. There is limited data describing the level of physical activity in this population. The aims of this study were to define the average physical activity of Australian lung cancer patients and to identify their barriers to participation in an exercise program.
Patients from two tertiary cancer centres who had a confirmed diagnosis of lung cancer were identified and invited to participate in 2 focus group discussions. Focus groups were conducted until data saturation. Data emerging from these focus groups were then used to inform a 36-item exercise survey questionnaire. Patients were considered active if they met the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels of physical activity (150 min of moderate-intensity or 75 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity in one week), or if they met the criteria as per the Godin-Shephard Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire (GSLTPAQ). This survey was distributed between January to March 2017 to all lung cancer patients at the participating hospitals. Results were analysed using descriptive statistics and an unpaired, two-tailed, t-test comparing the active and non-active groups.
Forty-one participants completed the survey. The mean age was 63.9 years. Most participants had advanced lung cancer (88.4%). All participants had received at least one cycle of chemotherapy. Only 22% achieved WHO recommended levels of activity and only 25% were considered active on the GSLTPAQ. Commonly reported barriers were fatigue (68%), shortness of breath (61%), low mood (58%), no motivation (56%), pain (54%), and side effects of treatment (54%). Over half (54%) reported lack of awareness of the benefits of exercise. Those who were non-active reported having less social supports (p ≤ 0.05) and more fatigue as a barrier to physical activity (p ≤ 0.05) compared to those who were active.
Level of physical activity was low in our cohort. Addressing these identified barriers such as lack of awareness of exercise benefits may promote future patient engagement with exercise programs.