Unlocking the Power of Behaviour Change
While it is easy to talk about lifestyle changes, the true challenge lies in the actual implementation, striving for long-lasting and sustainable transformation. Cancer survivors in particular, face unique challenges on their journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
Adopting healthy behaviors is a powerful way for Young Cancer Survivors to improve their overall health condition, reducing the occurrence of risks such as cancer recurrence, increased risk of second primary cancer or comorbidities, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease (1,2). Yet, the journey towards healthier behaviors often proves very demanding for cancer survivors due to the long-term negative consequences of cancer and treatment related-side effects that are often debilitating, both physically and mentally (3). Nevertheless, cancer survivors are encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity, a balanced diet, prioritizing mental health and spending time in nature. By embracing these behaviors, survivors can take control of their health and build a stronger, more resilient future.
Here you can find some tips for supporting behavioral change:
1. Find your personal reasons for engaging in a healthy lifestyle: Focus on your health and your body and reflect on your personal desires. For example, you may want to regain strength, protect your health by reducing cancer recurrence risk, or improve your mental or overall well-being. Your personal motivation is the most powerful tool for behavior change!
2. Set SMART goals: To navigate the path of behavior change effectively, establish Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals.
For more information, see the article “Get motivated! How to achieve your goals to live a healthier life?". Break down large goals into smaller milestones to maintain intrinsic motivation high and don’t forget to celebrate your progress!
3. Personalized activities: Recognize that each individual is unique, and obstacles like pain or fatigue can hinder physical activity (PA). Reach out to healthcare professionals or specialized trainers experienced in working with cancer survivors.
These professionals will customize PA, adapting it to your needs and capacities. Look out for our upcoming toolbox with personalized training plans!
4. Foster your resilience: All you have experienced during treatment made you stronger. Look at your setbacks as opportunities to foster your personal growth and look for alternative ways to overcome challenges. Remember, you have the power to bounce back and triumph over adversity!
5. Create your network: You don’t have to face this on your own. Connect with friends, family or people who lived similar experiences by participating in cancer survivorship programs or connecting through projects such as OACCUs. Exercising together can make the journey more enjoyable and fulfilling.
6. Use technological wearable devices: Technological devices such as fitness watches will help you track your progress and give detailed information about your health. By utilizing these tools, you can stay motivated and continually monitor your growth!
Behavior change is a powerful tool that empowers cancer survivors to take control of their health and minimize the risks associated with cancer recurrence and other comorbidities. By finding personal motivation, setting SMART goals, embracing personalized activities, cultivating resilience, building a support network, and leveraging technology, cancer survivors can embark on a transformative journey that enhances their overall well-being.
Authors: Nemanja Lakicevic, Ambra Gentile & Nicole Stiegeler
- Tollosa, D. N., Tavener, M., Hure, A., & James, E. L. (2019). Adherence to multiple health behaviours in cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 13, 327-343.
- Clarke, S. A., & Eiser, C. (2007). Health behaviours in childhood cancer survivors: a systematic review. European Journal of Cancer, 43(9), 1373-1384.
- Roberts, A. L., Fisher, A., Smith, L., Heinrich, M., & Potts, H. W. (2017). Digital health behaviour change interventions targeting physical activity and diet in cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 11, 704-719.