Patterns and determinants of physical activity and exercise in older versus younger female breast cancer survivors

Carrie Tompkins Stricker, University of Pennsylvania


There are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States today, and over half are 60 years and older. These breast cancer survivors (BCS), and older women in particular, are at higher risk than the general population for a number of negative health and functional outcomes and decreased quality of life. Physical activity (PA) and exercise have the potential to modify these outcomes, but the majority of breast cancer survivors do not engage in recommended levels of PA, especially older women. A critical step towards effectively increasing PA in BCS is to identify and describe predictors of PA that can be targeted by interventions. Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) has consistently demonstrated high predictive power for understanding PA, and SCT constructs (self-efficacy [SE], outcome expectations [OE], and perceived barriers [PB]) are significant predictors of PA in women undergoing adjuvant breast cancer therapy. Examination of SCT constructs has not been previously undertaken in BCS following treatment, particularly in older BCS, and task and barrier self-efficacy have rarely been independently examined. Therefore, the fundamental goal of this study was to describe PA and exercise and their modifiable determinants in order to guide future intervention aimed at increasing PA in BCS. A total of 140 BCS approximately one to two years following diagnosis were recruited from a single comprehensive breast center. PA, exercise, and SCT constructs were examined using self-report measures, including comparison between younger (< 60 years) and older (≥ 60 years) women. Although overall PA levels were high, a minority of BCS, especially older women, engaged in exercise. Most PA was accounted for by habitual activity. SE, OE, and PB each were significant predictors of exercise in BCS, and are therefore important targets for future intervention research, particularly task self-efficacy, which emerged as the most important predictor of exercise and was significantly lower in older women. Interventions aimed at increasing PA and exercise in BCS are clearly still needed, and data from this study can help to inform the development of age-specific interventions aimed at improving PA and exercise behavior in both older and younger BCS.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Nursing|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Stricker, Carrie Tompkins, "Patterns and determinants of physical activity and exercise in older versus younger female breast cancer survivors" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271819.