Background: The efficacy of exercise as medicine for cancer survivors has been well established. However, efficacy trials can be poor predictors of the effectiveness of interventions in “real world” settings. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the YMCA Cancer Survivors Program for improving quality of life (QoL). Secondary outcomes included muscular strength, balance, and sedentary behaviour.
Methods: The YMCA Cancer Survivors Program is a free 12-week supervised exercise program offered twice-weekly to cancer survivors at several YMCA locations across Brisbane. QoL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy - General), muscular strength (30-sec sit to stand), balance (Modified Star Excursion Test), and sedentary behaviour (Active Australia Survey) were assessed prior to and following the 12-week Program.
Results: Thirty cancer survivors participated in this study. No significant improvements in QoL (2.1±1.4; p > 0.999) were observed following the Program. Leg strength (+4.4 ± 1.6 chair stands; p < 0.001) and balance (+47.3±20.3 cm right leg; +43.2±17.3 cm left leg; both p<0.001) significantly improved following the Program. Clinically meaningful, but not statistically significant improvements were found for sedentary behaviour, with overall sitting time decreasing by -1.7±0.8 hours/day (p >0.999). While no adverse events were reported, only 40% of safety monitoring, 58% of session attendance and 34% of program adherence forms were completed.
Conclusion: This pragmatic evaluation provides preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of the YMCA Cancer Survivors Program to improve muscular strength and balance, but not quality of life, for cancer survivors. Further evaluation is required to determine the safety and feasibility of the YMCA Cancer Survivors Program. These findings will be used to inform the iterative development of this community-based exercise program for people living with and beyond cancer.