Get up and get moving. That advice has proven to be helpful for patients undergoing cancer treatment, but it’s not currently included in the nursing standard of care.

A team of researchers illustrated the positive physical and psychosocial benefits of exercise during cancer treatment by implementing the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Get Up, Get Moving program, a personalized, home-based, nurse-led physical activity coaching program. The results of their pilot study were published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.

As part of the program, all the participants received an initial counseling session about physical activity and a Fitbit Inspire activity tracker to help them keep track of their daily steps.

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The patients were then randomly divided into 2 groups: a standard care group of 8 participants and an intervention group of 9 participants. The cancer diagnoses among the participants included breast, prostate, and colon cancer. Throughout the program, a clinical nurse specialist made weekly calls to ask the participants in the intervention group about their fatigue levels, nausea, and their step count, and to encourage them to engage in some exercise.

The researchers asked their participants to complete the SF-36 and the Godin Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire at weeks 1 and 12.

Participants in the intervention group successfully increased their physical activity, mitigating some of the negative effects of oncology treatment without incurring the expense of membership at a facility. Plus, the program can be followed remotely, as they learned when the Covid-19 pandemic began in the midst of the pilot study.

The study limitations included the small sample size. “Those individuals who chose to be in the study may have been more receptive to exercise,” the researchers noted. “In addition, they were tracked for only 12 weeks, which limits the generalizability of the results among patients and over time.”

However, the 12-week program does illustrate the benefits of nurse-led interventions to encourage more physical activity among people undergoing treatment for cancer. The researchers suggested that while multiple models are possible, the model they used can be easily integrated into the patient assessment. Future research may track patients for a longer period of time to gauge the results.


Forner JK, Doughty A, Dalstrom MD, Messer BL, Lizer SK. Quality of life: a nurse-led physical activity coaching program to improve the quality of life of patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2021;25(5):571-577. doi:10.1188/21.cjon.571-577