A study looking at a walking programme for people who have cancer that has come back or spread to another part of the body (CanWalk)

Cancer type:

All cancer types





This study looked at whether regular walking helped to improve how people with cancer felt physically and emotionally. 

It was for people who had a cancer that came back (recurrent cancer) or had spread to another part of their body (metastatic cancer).

This study was open between April and November 2014.

These results were published in 2017. 

More about this trial

Exercise can improve quality of life Open a glossary item and reduce tiredness (fatigue) in people with recurrent or metastatic cancer. But many exercise programmes need people to go to a specialist centre and have supervised sessions. People may not find this acceptable or affordable in the long term.
In this study, researchers looked at walking programmes that you could do from home.
The aims of the study were to find out:
  • if community based walking programmes were acceptable to people with cancer that came back or had spread
  • whether a walking programme improved how people felt physically and emotionally

Summary of results

The study team found that the walking programme was acceptable. 

About this study
This was a feasibility study. 42 people joined the study. 

It was a randomised study. The people who took part were put into 1 of 2 groups. Neither they nor their doctor chose which group they were in.

21 people were in the group that did the CanWalk programme.
21 people continued with their usual levels of activity.  This was the control group Open a glossary item

The people in the CanWalk programme group had a motivational talk to:
  • encourage them to join a weekly walk group from the Walking for Health (WfH) programme
  • encourage them to walk in between their weekly walk with WfH
The study team also gave them gave them printed information about how to increase their activity levels. 
For the 7 days before seeing the study team everyone recorded how many steps they took. This was recorded by a pedometer. This is a small device that measures the level of physical activity you do. They were to record the information from the pedometer for the study team to see. 
Those in the CanWalk programme group kept a diary of how many WfH walks they did. 
The team saw the people at the start of the study and then at:
  • 6 weeks
  • 12 weeks
  • 24 weeks (end of the study)
At the end of the study they asked people to do an end of study questionnaire. The questions asked:
  • what they thought about the study
  • what they thought about being put into different groups (randomisation process)
  • their thoughts about the questionnaires and filling them in
After the study the team interviewed 5 people from each group to find out what they thought about the study. 
The study continued for 24 weeks. 
10 people of the 21 in the CanWalk programme group completed the study.
13 people of the 21 in the control group completed the study. 
People who joined the study
Of the 110 people who were able to join the study, 49 people (47%) decided not to. The main reason for not joining was work commitments. People were willing to walk on every other day but felt they couldn’t commit to a weekly walking group. 
Over half the people (53%) were interested in taking part. The number who did join was 4 out of every 10 people (40%). Reasons for this drop in numbers of people who actually joined wasn’t known. 
The people who were interviewed said that the randomisation process was acceptable. 
People who stayed in the study
During the study 19 people (45%) withdrew:
  • 12 people (28%) between the start of the study and week 6
  • 7 people (17%) between week 12 and week 24

General reasons for not continuing weren’t given. But 2 people weren’t well enough and 2 people died. 
The researchers noted that the anxiety levels reported by people was higher at the start of the study than at the end. And this was the only factor linked to people not continuing in the study.  
Acceptability of questionnaires
In the interviews people reported it took between 10 minutes and 40 minutes to fill in the questionnaires. 
They said all were suitable apart from the Scottish Physical Activity Questionnaire (SPAQ). 8 of the 10 people said it was tiresome, asked the same questions and was difficult to complete. 
About Walk for Health 
There were no side effects reported by people in the study. 
Views about the CanWalk study were positive. Although information from the interviews suggested that engagement with and remaining within the WfH walk groups was varied. 
4 of the 5 people interviewed who were in the WfH group did both walks with the group and their own walks. 
At 24 weeks, 9 of the 21 people completed the end of study questionnaire. 8 people reported they found the WfH useful. 7 people reported being satisfied with WfH. 
During the interviews certain barriers about WfH were identified. These included:
  • a preference for doing their own walks
  • a dislike of group activities
  • convenience and availability of the WfH walks 
One person stopped going to WfH because they felt it was more for older people than young people. They decided to continue with their own walks. 
During the interviews people suggested offering alternative walks to the group ones. 
Effect on the control group
Only 1 person in the control group said they received information on exercising during the study.
In the End of Study Questionnaire 9 people said that taking part in the study encouraged them to increase their physical activity. This was confirmed by 3 of the 5 people from the control group who were interviewed.
Quality of life
When people in the WfH group were interviewed they said that from taking part in the group walks they had benefited:
  • physically
  • emotionally and psychologically
  • socially
  • by changing their life style 
In the interviews everyone in the WfH group and 3 out of the 5 in the control group reported an increase in their physical activity after the study. 
Well-being and lifestyle benefits, such as weight loss, motivated people to increase the amount they walked.
The study team concluded that doing a randomised clinical trial using the CanWalk programme was possible and acceptable.
But they needed to make changes to make it more appropriate and easier for people to report on. These changes included: 
  • using another way to measure walking behaviour other than the pedometer
  • using questionnaires that ask questions about social contacts 
  • having other groups for comparison such as a group that receives written information only 
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Jo Armes

Supported by

Dimbleby Cancer Care
King's College London
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

A picture of Charlie

“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

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