Use of a Fitness Tracker to Promote Physical Activity in Children With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Mary C. Hooke, Laura Gilchrist, Lynn Tanner, Nicole Hart, Janice S. Withycombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Children with cancer identify fatigue as a pervasive symptom, which increases during the corticosteroid pulse in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) maintenance. The FitBit is a fitness tracker that downloads activity measurements to the Internet in real time. In this feasibility study, we explored if children who received daily FitBit coaching for 2 weeks before a maintenance steroid pulse had an increase in steps per day and determined the relationship between steps per day prepulse and fatigue postpulse.

PROCEDURE: Seventeen children in ALL maintenance, aged 6-15, wore the FitBit for 3 days to establish a baseline. A tailored weekly step goal was then set with the child and parent. Daily emails with feedback and FitBit screenshots were sent over the 2-week intervention. Self-report of fatigue was measured at baseline, after 2 weeks (i.e. before the steroid pulse), and after 5 days of steroids.

RESULTS: There was a trend toward increased steps per day from weeks 1-2 (P = 0.079); fatigue was low and did not increase during the corticosteroid pulse. A significant correlation (r = -0.66, P = 0.005) was found between the steps per day during week 2 and fatigue after the steroid pulse with higher steps associated with lower fatigue.

CONCLUSIONS: The intervention was feasible in this small sample. The average steps each time period (week 1, week 2, and during steroids) was over 10,000, demonstrating that children with ALL can be active during treatment. Physical activity may be protective of fatigue during a corticosteroid pulse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)684-689
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric blood & cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • children
  • fatigue
  • fitness tracker
  • physical activity


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