Engaging in physical activity improves quality of life for cancer survivors, yet nearly 60% of young adult cancer survivors are physically inactive. Researchers at UNC-CH and the NRI are looking for new approaches to encourage more cancer survivors to be physically active as they move beyond treatment.

With the IMproving Physical Activity after Cancer Treatment (IMPACT) study (Valle et al., 2021), UNC-CH associate professor Carmina Valle, PhD, MPH, with NRI faculty member and interim director Deborah Tate, PhD, as a collaborator, compared mobile health (mHealth – e.g., smart watches and associated phone apps) alone as a self-help group (activity tracker, unmoderated Facebook group) vs. a more active intervention group (same as self-help group + moderated Facebook group, additional web-based behavioral tools and resources, adaptive goal setting, tailored feedback, text messages).

Initial analysis of IMPACT showed that the intervention group exhibited more moderate-to-vigorous activity, but not total physical activity (Valle et al., 2023) compared with the self-help group. To optimize strategies and messaging for future interventions, Valle et al. (2024) looked more closely at sociodemographic and health-related characteristics in the study cohort. They found that race, sex, BMI, and cancer stage were moderators of response to the intervention.

This suggests that some subpopulations may maximally benefit from receiving mHealth tools alone, while others may require more support from a compre­hensive intervention that integrates digital tools with specific strategies like adaptive goals, personalized feedback, or text messages that are tailored to individuals’ characteristics and con­texts. Overall, studies such as this can contribute greatly to post-treatment quality of life by helping researchers refine interventions and messaging approaches to better support recovering cancer patients and survivors.

Valle et al. (2021) Promoting physical activity in young adult cancer survivors using mHealth and adaptive tailored feedback strategies: Design of the Improving Physical Activity after Cancer Treatment (IMPACT) randomized controlled trial. Contemp Clin Trials 103:106293, doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2021.106293.

Valle et al. (2023). Effect of an mHealth intervention on physical activity outcomes among young adult cancer survivors: The IMPACT randomized controlled trial. Cancer 129(3):461-472. doi: 10.1002/cncr.34556.

Valle et al. (2024). Examining sociodemographic and health-related characteristics as moderators of an mHealth intervention on physical activity outcomes in young adult cancer survivors. J Cancer Surviv, doi: 10.1007/s11764-024-01577-4.