In today’s world, advances in research are critical to providing treatment options for the debilitating side effects of people living with cancer. The Cancer Foundation For Life®’s (Foundation’s) contribution to research is defining how the academic recommendation of exercise benefits patients in a community environment.

The Foundation collaborates with a network of oncologists and academic institutions to incorporate exercise as a standard of care for cancer treatment.

In 2011, the Foundation developed a proprietary internet-based software to make all facilities “paperless” and provide a common database for all patient activity. This HIPAA compliant software keeps track of all patient contact and medical information, exercise session data and staff/patient interactions. Each time a patient exercises at a FitSTEPS for Life® (FitSTEPS) center, their exercise information is recorded as an “encounter.” For accurate assessment, these encounters can be compared using Met Hour Equivalents (METs), which is produced by an equation that takes into account time and speed on the treadmill, time and resistance on the elliptical machine, and whether the patient completed any exercise classes or core, stretching or weight-training exercises during that encounter. A higher score indicates a more vigorous exercise session. METs is the standard used in published research. For FitSTEPS, this provides a tool used to monitor center performance and patient outcomes, and it is used to strategically develop individual cancer exercise plans. Additionally, it provides a visual means of motivation for the patient when they can see their individual improvement through exercise. The software also has the ability to send automated text messages to patients. These text messages serve as reminders to exercise and include a mobile-formatted website link which allows patients to log their exercise encounters. It also ensures patient compliance.

Since then, we have expanded the software to provide a resource for the accumulation and analysis of research data. This internet-based software enables FitSTEPS to be networked without boundaries.

Our research effort has quantified the evidence that a community-based, cancer exercise program demonstrates a significant benefit to cancer patients during and following treatment.