Open Access Research article

Perceived benefits and barriers to exercise for recently treated patients with multiple myeloma: a qualitative study

Melinda J Craike1*, Kaye Hose2, Kerry S Courneya3, Simon J Harrison45 and Patricia M Livingston1

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Health, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia

2 Leukaemia Foundation Australia, Ground Floor, 205 Bell St, Preston, VIC 3072, Australia

3 Behavioral Medicine Laboratory, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, E-488 Van Vliet Center, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H9, Canada

4 Cancer Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Locked Bag 1, A’beckett St, Melbourne, VIC 8006, Australia

5 Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:319  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-319

Published: 1 July 2013



Understanding the physical activity experiences of patients with multiple myeloma (MM) is essential to inform the development of evidence-based interventions and to quantify the benefits of physical activity. The aim of this study was to gain an in-depth understanding of the physical activity experiences and perceived benefits and barriers to physical activity for patients with MM.


This was a qualitative study that used a grounded theory approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in Victoria, Australia by telephone from December 2011-February 2012 with patients who had been treated for MM within the preceding 2–12 months. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using the constant comparison coding method to reduce the data to themes. Gender differences and differences between treatment groups were explored.


Twenty-four interviews were completed. The sample comprised 13 females (54%), with a mean age of 62 years (SD = 8.8). Sixteen (67%) participants had received an autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT). All participants currently engaged in a range of light to moderate intensity physical activity; walking and gardening were the most common activities. Recovery from the symptoms of MM and side effects of therapy, psychological benefits, social factors and enjoyment were important benefits of physical activity. Barriers to physical activity predominately related to the symptoms of MM and side effects of therapy, including pain, fatigue, and fear of infection. Low self- motivation was also a barrier. Women participated in a more diverse range of physical activities than men and there were gender differences in preferred type of physical activity. Women were more likely to report psychological and social benefits; whereas men reported physical activity as a way to keep busy and self-motivation was a barrier. Patients treated with an ASCT more often reported affective benefits of participation in physical activity and fatigue as a barrier. Patients treated with other therapies (e.g., chemotherapy, radiotherapy) were more likely to report pain as a barrier.


Patients with MM experience debilitating effects of their condition and therapy, which influences their level and intensity of physical activity participation. Physical activity programs should be individualised; take into consideration gender differences and the impact of different types of therapy on physical activity; and focus on meeting the psychological, coping and recovery needs of patients.

Cancer; Oncology; Multiple Myeloma; Physical Activity; Exercise