Barriers to Exercise: Perspectives from Multiethnic Cancer Survivors in Malaysia


Background: Many cancer survivors are still not active enough to reap the benefits of physical activity. This study aimed to explore the correlation between perceived barriers and participation in exercise among multiethnic Malaysian women with breast cancer.
Methods: A cross-sectional study using a pre-post questionnaireand a media-clip as a cancer control strategy was conducted on a random sample of women with breast cancer. The tools were structured questionnaires to collect socio-medical demographic and physical activity data (e.g. barriers, exercise self-efficacy).
Results: A statistically significant relationship between level of physical activity before and after diagnosis of breast cancer (n=51, χ2=70.14, p<0.01) was found, whereby participants who rated more hours of physical activity before diagnosis were likely to persevere with exercise after diagnosis, r(49)=0.73,p<.01. Some 76.5% of women engaged in low level activity and 23.5% of the participants engaged in moderate level of physical activity.
Conclusions: Despite the many benefits of physical activity, the majority of survivors in this study were not found to be physically active, and did not even consciously think of exercise participation. Lack of time is the main barrier amongst those survivors who are predominantly 40-50 year old housewives juggling with household chores, childcare and/or job commitments. Public health messages stressing that short bouts of exercise or some exercise are better than no exercise needs to be emphasised consistently.