Dec. 7, 2018

New social media campaign gets men with cancer moving and improving

Practicum student says support people are key to success of #MoveThatMan

When Sydney Riglin’s boyfriend was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2016, she searched for ways to help him stay active.

“He couldn’t go to a regular gym setting, because he needed a sanitary environment, and I knew he needed an extra push, so I looked for activities that we could do together,” says Riglin, a practicum student working with cancer patients in the Thrive Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology.

She was surprised at how difficult it was to find activities that they could share. When her boyfriend passed away at age 26 in April 2018, Riglin made a commitment to help other men with cancer to stay active, and began searching for a practicum related to exercise and cancer.

“With a little bit of searching, I found Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed, who is instrumental in getting cancer survivors into exercise programs, and I wanted to take my practicum with her,” says Riglin. “I wish I would have discovered this program much sooner so my boyfriend could have taken part.”

  • Photo above: Practicum student Sydney Riglin, right, started a new initiative that encourages male cancer survivors to get physically active. She and Kinesiology prof Nicole Culos-Reed talk with participant John Gosbee. Photos by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

New campaign targets the support people

During her practicum in the Thrive Centre, Riglin thought of a way to help men stay active. “It’s the people in a man’s life who push him to stay active and healthy, so I thought, let’s create a social media campaign that targets the support people instead. Help them to motivate men, and let them know these resources exist,” says Riglin.

Her social media campaign #MoveThatMan encourages people who know a man with cancer to share photos of him working out.

Though the campaign began on Nov. 1 in conjunction with Movember, and focused on men with prostate cancer, it officially launched Dec. 1 to include men with all types of cancer. Culos-Reed’s team will continue to keep the campaign going after Riglin’s practicum finishes this semester. 

Other resources for men

John Gosbee, a participant in an exercise program at the Thrive Centre, says there is only one other man in a group of 12. He finds it puzzling. Currently, only 20 per cent of the participants in the centre are male.

“This program gives me exercises that are suited to me, but it gives me more than that,” says Gosbee. “It’s boosted my self-confidence, and now I have a network of people who understand what I’m going through.”

Programs like Alberta Cancer Exercise, and the online program TrueNTH Lifestyle Management, provide men anywhere with support and customized programs.

“Once they enter these programs, they love it,” says Mike Dew, exercise physiologist in the Health and Wellness Lab. “Most communities have an exercise program for those with cancer, and for those that don’t, we are trying to fill in the gaps. This campaign will help us with that.” 

Improving cancer care in Alberta

“It should be mandatory for every physician to refer their cancer patients to a cancer-specific exercise program that is tailored to their needs,” says Culos-Reed, PhD, professor in health and exercise psychology in the Faculty of Kinesiology. “Participants in our programs have improved fitness, including cardiovascular, flexibility and strength gains, as well as improved mental well-being and overall enhanced quality of life.

“What Sydney came up with is a fun way to get men moving. Our health-care system, and our cancer care system in particular, doesn’t address wellness. #MoveThatMan is a way to bring some focus on wellness and some fun into the cancer journey.”