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Study shows wearable fitness technology gets cancer survivors active

Study shows wearable fitness technology gets cancer survivors active
April 26, 2019

Cancer Council Victoria's ACTIVity And TEchnology (ACTIVATE) Trial has shown that wearable fitness technology could be used to improve the amount of physical activity done by postmenopausal breast cancer survivors.

The ACTIVATE Trial was a randomised control trial using wearable technology activity monitors (the Garmin vivofit 2®) to help breast cancer survivors get active. The trial found the combination of wearable technology and coaching successfully increased physical activity by more than an hour a week and decreased sitting time. 

At the end of the 12-week trial, the group wearing the fitness trackers performed 69 minutes more physical activity than the control group who did not wear the trackers, and sat for 37 minutes less per day. Activity levels were accurately measured using research-grade accelerometers, devices that measure body movement.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Brigid Lynch from Cancer Council Victoria’s Cancer Epidemiology Division, said the findings were significant as most cancer survivors are insufficiently active, advising "we know that for breast cancer survivors, regular participation in moderate-vigorous physical activity is associated with diminished treatment side-effects, enhanced quality of life, and may reduce risk of cancer recurrence and death. Despite these benefits, many breast cancer survivors do not achieve the physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per week."

Associate Professor Lynch said the results from the ACTIVATE Trial demonstrate that the use of wearable technology presents an inexpensive and adaptable opportunity to facilitate more active lifestyles for cancer survivors.

She noted “given their low cost and wide reach, fitness devices are ideal tools for health promotion programs. This is particularly important for survivors who live in rural or regional areas where their access to supervised exercise is limited by geographic reach, availability of facilities, appropriately qualified professionals and cost.”

The ACTIVATE Trial was funded by World Cancer Research Fund, with additional support from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

World Cancer Research Fund’s Senior Research Manager, Dr Anna Diaz Font, added "more and more people are surviving cancer thanks to early detection and improved treatments. Therefore, it is vital that we know not only what can improve cancer survivors’ quality of life and reduce their risk of recurrence, but how we can empower them to make these behaviour changes. This research shows the impact of wearable technology on increasing physical activity time, which is innovative and cost effective.

“We are so proud to be able to fund research such as A/Prof Lynch’s which will have a real impact on people living with and beyond cancer.”

Almost 70% of the group who were provided fitness bands increased the moderate-vigorous physical activity over the studied period, and more than 60% decreased their average sitting time.

The ACTIVATE Trial researchers followed-up the participants for another 12 weeks following the initial study, and found the women who had received the intervention maintained their level of physical activity. 

Associate Professor Lynch concluded “we had expected to see a drop off in physical activity after the health coaching element stopped after the initial 12 weeks. Instead, on average physical activity levels increased by a further 14 minutes per week.".

Image top: Garmin vivofit fitness tracker.

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