Regular exercise improves the well-being of parents of children with cancer

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Parents of children with cancer describe impaired physical and social functioning, sleep disturbance and poor mental health. Exercise-related interventions impact positively on these quality of life domains, but have not been examined in this population. The aim of this longitudinal pilot study was to explore the feasibility of a 12-week pedometer-monitored walking intervention among parents of children with cancer, assessing adherence to a set activity target of 70,000 steps per week, and to explore the benefits of physical activity on mental and physical health.


Parents were provided with a pedometer and requested to achieve a daily step count of 10,000 steps per day for 12 weeks. Mood, well-being and psychological distress were examined using validated questionnaires (Profile of Mood States 2nd edition [POMS-2], Distress Thermometer for Parents [DT-P] and Depression Anxiety Stress Scales [DASS-42]) at baseline, midpoint (6 weeks) and endpoint (12 weeks) to identify changes in these domains with increased activity.


Fifteen parents were recruited. The majority increased their counts during the first 4 weeks of the study and maintained this to week 8 (n = 12). Time-dependent improvements were identified in the following psychometric test outcomes at week 12: DT-P score (likelihood ratio test [LRT] P = 0.02), POMS-2 total mood disturbance (LRT P = 0.03), fatigue inertia (LRT P = 0.009), tension anxiety (LRT P = 0.007) and vigour activity (LRT P = 0.001).


Mental health benefits of a pedometer-based exercise intervention for parents of children with cancer were identified. Such programs should be included in a holistic approach to improve the psychological outcomes of parents whose children are receiving treatment for cancer.

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