"Running with cancer": A qualitative study to evaluate barriers and motivations in running for female oncological patients

Alice Avancini, Kristina Skroce, Daniela Tregnago, Paolo Frada, Ilaria Trestini, Maria Cecilia Cercato, Clelia Bonaiuto, Cantor Tarperi, Federico Schena, Michele Milella, Sara Pilotto, Massimo Lanza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nowadays, it is widely acknowledged that low physical activity levels are associated with an increase in terms of both disease recurrence and mortality in cancer survivors. In this light, deciphering those factors able to hamper or facilitate an active lifestyle is crucial in order to increase patients' adherence to physical activity. The purpose of this study was to explore barriers and motivations in a sample of female oncological patients, practising running using the ecological model and compare them with healthy controls. Focus group interviews were conducted at Verona University. Participants were 12 female cancer survivors and 7 matched healthy controls who had participated at "Run for Science" project. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using content analysis. Transcripts were categorized according to the ecological model, identifying barriers and motivations as themes. About motivations, three sub-themes were included: personal, interpersonal and environmental/organizational factors. Regarding barriers, another sub-theme was recognized: community/policy factors. Compared to healthy controls, survivors expressed motivations and barriers specifically related to their oncological disease. Running was a challenge with their cancer and a hope to give to other patients. Main barriers were represented by treatment-related side effects, inexperienced trainers and external factors, e.g. delivery of incorrect information. Running programs dedicated to oncological patients should consider intrinsic obstacles, related to cancer and its treatment. The interventions should offer a personalized program performed by qualified trainers, together with a motivational approach able to improve participants' adherence to an active lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0227846
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Adult
  • Cancer Survivors/psychology
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior/physiology
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms/pathology
  • Running/physiology
  • Sports/physiology


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