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Move your body

Being physically active reduces your cancer risk

Move your body

You can lower your risk of cancer by being physically active every day enjoying a healthy diet and avoiding excess weight gain. Studies show being overweight, physically inactive and not eating well increases your risk of developing cancer.

Doing little or no physical activity is associated with a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. Physical inactivity is responsible for 12% of colon cancers and 3.2% of  breast cancers - and probably contributes to many other cancers.

Physical inactivity increases your risk of bowel cancer and breast cancer, and possibly prostate, uterine and lung cancer. Being inactive also contributes to weight gain. Being overweight or obese also increases cancer risk.

The good news is you can lower your cancer risk by being physically active. Physical activity regulates hormones such as insulin-like growth factor and oestrogen and affects the speed that food passes through the bowel, reducing contact with any potential carcinogens. It can decrease the risk of developing cancer as well as improving cardiovascular fitness, maintaining bone mineral density and reducing stress.

Physical activity helps you avoid excess weight gain and can improve energy levels and feelings of wellbeing.

Just 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day is good for your health and 60 minutes can reduce your risk of developing cancer. There is evidence to suggest that the more exercise you do, the lower your risk - especially if this is more vigorous physical activity. 

Being more active is one of the best things you can do for yourself

For good health, put together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. It doesn't have to be continuous; three 10 minutes sessions are also good. Each activity session should be at least 10 minutes.

To reduce your cancer risk, the more physically active you are the better. As your fitness improves, aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day.

Moderate physical activity includes any activity in which you can still hold a conversation, such as brisk walking.

Vigorous physical activity includes any activity that makes you ‘huff and puff’, such as fast swimming, cycling or jogging.

Getting started

If you have not been physically active for some time, it is best to start slowly. Going too hard too early can cause pain and injury.

Tips for getting started

  • Get friends to join you. They will give you company and motivation.
  • Think of movement as an opportunity and plan ahead.
  • Set goals and challenge yourself to build up your physical activity levels.
  • If you are being active outdoors, remember to be SunSmart.
  • Drink water before, during and after your activity.

Tips for home

  • Turn off the TV or computer and use this time to be active.
  • Walk or cycle to the local shops.
  • Do gardening or housework.
  • Be active as a family.
  • Walk your children to school.

Tips for work

  • Catch public transport to work, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Park your car 10 to 15 minutes from work, and walk the rest of the way.
  • Walk with colleagues at lunchtime.
  • Take the stairs, not the lift.

Being active, like healthy eating, requires some thought and planning each day. It also needs to be kept up over a lifetime. Regular physical activity will give you extra energy, make you feel better, and reduce your chance of developing cancer.

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.

Learn more about reducing your cancer risk with diet and exercise