Dying Fit or Not—Physical Activity as Antidote to Death?

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Physical activity has increasingly gained attention within palliative care. This article aims to explore how the idea of physical activity influences patients with advanced cancer and health-care professionals’ interactions. The empirical material was gathered as part of an anthropological field study about palliative care needs among 16 patients with advanced cancer, consisting of observations and interviews with patients, relatives, and professionals. Two of the patient cases were analyzed, inspired by Goffman’s theory, showing how patients and health-care professionals interact in relation to physical activity. The findings show that patients played roles either embracing physical activity or distancing it by postponement. Professionals played expert roles of duty and attachment, stressing the importance of physical activity. Thus, they accepted a minimum of physical activity when patients were close to death. Professionals regarded patients’ absence of physical activity as a lack of desire to live; patients regard it as a way to live.
TidsskriftOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Antal sider21
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 2020


  • physical activity, advanced cancer patients, health-care professionals, role-play, stigmatization

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