Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Anna Roberts

Development of a smartphone app-based intervention to promote physical activity among people living with and beyond cancer

Cancer diagnoses are increasing, and people are living for increasing numbers of years after diagnosis, so it is important that cancer survivors are supported to live well, for as long as possible. Physical activity improves the quality of life, cancer treatment side effects, and reduces risk of other comorbidities. Many cancer survivors do not meet recommended levels of physical activity and evidence-based interventions that are accessible and scalable are needed. Digital interventions could reach large proportions of the population in a cost-effective and scalable way. This thesis used mixed-methods to conduct a series of studies with the aim of developing a smartphone-app based intervention to promote physical activity in breast, prostate and colorectal cancer survivors. Study 1 showed that digital interventions have the potential to increase cancer survivors’ moderate-vigorous physical activity by 41 minutes per week, however high-quality studies are lacking. Study 2 found that up to 38% of cancer survivors are interested in internet-based and app-based health behaviour interventions. Interest is related to several sociodemographic and participant characteristics. Study 3 found that physical activity apps must acknowledge the varying needs and physical activity preferences of cancer survivors. Apps that promote walking and are recommended by members of their clinical team are favoured. Study 4 provided insight into Clinical Nurse Specialists’ perceptions of their role in physical activity promotion and showed that they are generally positive about the use of apps to complement existing physical activity promotion in cancer care. Together, these studies led to the development of an app-based physical activity intervention for cancer survivors.

Anna RobertsThesis link