A home-based mobile health intervention to replace sedentary time with light physical activity in older cancer survivors: Randomized controlled pilot trial

Cindy K. Blair, Elizabeth Harding, Charles Wiggins, Huining Kang, Matthew Schwartz, Amy Tarnower, Ruofei Du, Anita Y. Kinney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Older cancer survivors are at risk of the development or worsening of both age- and treatment-related morbidity. Sedentary behavior increases the risk of or exacerbates these chronic conditions. Light-intensity physical activity (LPA) is more common in older adults and is associated with better health and well-being. Thus, replacing sedentary time with LPA may provide a more successful strategy to reduce sedentary time and increase physical activity. Objective: This study primarily aims to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a home-based mobile health (mHealth) intervention to interrupt and replace sedentary time with LPA (standing and stepping). The secondary objective of this study is to examine changes in objective measures of physical activity, physical performance, and self-reported quality of life. Methods: Overall, 54 cancer survivors (aged 60-84 years) were randomized in a 1:1:1 allocation to the tech support intervention group, tech support plus health coaching intervention group, or waitlist control group. Intervention participants received a Jawbone UP2 activity monitor for use with their smartphone app for 13 weeks. Tech support and health coaching were provided via 5 telephone calls during the 13-week intervention. Sedentary behavior and physical activity were objectively measured using an activPAL monitor for 7 days before and after the intervention. Results: Participants included survivors of breast cancer (21/54, 39%), prostate cancer (16/54, 30%), and a variety of other cancer types; a mean of 4.4 years (SD 1.6) had passed since their cancer diagnosis. Participants, on average, were 70 years old (SD 4.8), 55% (30/54) female, 24% (13/54) Hispanic, and 81% (44/54) overweight or obese. Malfunction of the Jawbone trackers occurred in one-third of the intervention group, resulting in enrollment stopping at 54 rather than the initial goal of 60 participants. Despite these technical issues, the retention in the intervention was high (47/54, 87%). Adherence was high for wearing the tracker (29/29, 100%) and checking the app daily (28/29, 96%) but low for specific aspects related to the sedentary features of the tracker and app (21%-25%). The acceptability of the intervention was moderately high (81%). There were no significant between-group differences in total sedentary time, number of breaks, or number of prolonged sedentary bouts. There were no significant between-group differences in physical activity. The only significant within-group change occurred within the health coaching group, which increased by 1675 daily steps (95% CI 444-2906; P=.009). This increase was caused by moderate-intensity stepping rather than light-intensity stepping (+15.2 minutes per day; 95% CI 4.1-26.2; P=.008). Conclusions: A home-based mHealth program to disrupt and replace sedentary time with stepping was feasible among and acceptable to older cancer survivors. Future studies are needed to evaluate the optimal approach for replacing sedentary behavior with standing and/or physical activity in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere18819
JournalJMIR Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


  • Activity monitor
  • Cancer survivors
  • Consumer wearable
  • Light-intensity physical activity
  • Mobile health
  • Mobile phone
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behavior


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