A qualitative study to explore the acceptability and usefulness of personalized biofeedback to motivate physical activity in cancer survivors

Grace E. Brannon, Madison Ray, Patrick Cho, Miranda Baum, Muhammad Shaalan Beg, Therese Bevers, Susan M. Schembre, Karen Basen-Engquist, Yue Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Many cancer survivors do not meet recommended levels of exercise, despite the benefits physical activity offers. This study aimed to understand experiences of insufficiently active overweight/obese breast or colorectal cancer survivors, in efforts to (1) examine regular physical activity barriers, and (2) determine perceptions and acceptability of a remotely delivered physical activity intervention utilizing wearable sensors and personalized feedback messages. Methods: In-person and virtual small group interviews were conducted engaging overweight/obese cancer survivors (n = 16, 94% female, 94% breast cancer survivors) in discussions resulting in 314 pages of transcribed data analyzed by multiple coders. Results: All participants expressed needing to increase physical activity, identifying lack of motivation centering on survivorship experiences and symptom management as the most salient barrier. They indicated familiarity with activity trackers (i.e., Fitbit) and expressed interest in biosensors (i.e., continuous glucose monitors [CGMs]) as CGMs show biological metrics in real-time. Participants reported (1) personalized feedback messages can improve motivation and accountability; (2) CGM acceptability is high given survivors’ medical history; and (3) glucose data is a relevant health indicator and they appreciated integrated messages (between Fitbit and CGM) in demonstrating how behaviors immediately affect one's body. Conclusions: This study supports the use of wearable biosensors and m-health interventions to promote physical activity in cancer survivors. Glucose-based biofeedback provides relevant and motivating information for cancer survivors regarding their daily activity levels by demonstrating the immediate effects of physical activity. Integrating biofeedback into physical activity interventions could be an effective behavioral change strategy to promote a healthy lifestyle in cancer survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDigital Health
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral interventions
  • biosensors
  • cancer survivors
  • exercise
  • mobile health
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


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