Get active with activity trackers!
Wearable activity trackers have been growing in popularity over the past few years. A benefit of using a wearable activity tracker is the ease of monitoring how much physical activity you’ve done for the day, simply on your wrist or smart phone. There are a wide variety of trackers available with several features which not only track your step counts, but also calories, distance walked, time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, and/or sleep.
It’s very common that people often overestimate the physical activity they are doing. Using a wearable activity tracker could be a great motivational tool (that does not lie to you) and might even empower you to engage in more physical activity.
The use of wearable activity trackers to monitor physical activity levels and to motivate children and adolescents is growing in the field of paediatric oncology.
Why are activity trackers relevant for paediatric cancer survivors?
Many children and adolescents on cancer treatment, or who have finished cancer treatment, do not participate in adequate physical activity levels. Physical activity is essential for young people as it helps to improve fitness, muscle strength and, most importantly, helps to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Childhood survivors are at risk of developing treatment-related chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and secondary cancers, so encouraging them to be active is particularly important.
Do wearable fitness trackers encourage people to be active, or are they just more convenient to track (rather than writing things down, etc.)?
Activity trackers that provide feedback to the user (i.e., step counts or time spent in (MVPA)) have the potential to motivate and engage people to increase their physical activity levels; however, further research is needed to understand how activity trackers can be effective at improving physical activity levels when incorporated into different interventions.
How can oncology nurses use this data to discuss the potential benefit of wearable trackers with their patients?
Oncology nurses can discuss with patients the importance of physical activity and the potential benefits of using an activity tracker to monitor how much physical activity they are achieving. They are widely available and can provide a breadth of information including intensities of physical activity, duration of physical activity, energy expenditure, sleep and time spent in sedentary behaviours.
Little Big Steps
I recently found out about Little Big Steps, a charity championing physical activity for paediatric cancer patients. The charity was founded by two mums, Cass and Cindy, and the whole idea for Little Big Steps arose when Cass gave her son Lochie a fitness watch for his 8th birthday. Lochie who had been spending increasingly more time in bed due to the nature of his gruelling treatments, was on his feet getting his steps count up, seeking out physical activity just to see the progress on his new watch. Not only did his mood improve, but he was coping better with his treatments as well, all thanks to those small steps he was taking every day.
Three years on and Lochie is now in remission, and Little Big Steps is going strong - funding research into the benefits of physical activity during cancer treatment for kids, and providing Fitbits to kids across Australia who are battling with cancer.
If you would like to support Little Big Steps and help get kids with cancer moving, head on over to the website and make a donation today. You can also follow Little Big Steps on Facebook or Instagram
To read the full interview with our exercise physiologist and PhD student, Lauren Ha, click on this link: Wearable Fitness Trackers May Improve Health in Childhood Cancer Survivors (oncnursingnews.com)