Be more active

Sit less, move more and reduce your risk

Regular exercise can help prevent cancer. Get tips on how to fit more activity into your day.
Sit less, move more and reduce your risk

Sitting less and moving more cuts your risk of cancer.[1] There is evidence that exercise may even help stop some cancers, like breast cancer,[2] from returning.

Physical inactivity is one of the top four biggest causes of Australia's cancer burden.[3]

The Cancer Institute recommends one hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day to help reduce your cancer risk and live a healthier life. Regardless of how old you are, the more you move, the better. Moderate activity noticeably raises your heart rate. Vigorous exercise makes your heart beat even faster and puff or breath rapidly.[4]

It is not always easy to fit the recommended amount of exercise into your day. Remember: it is okay to start small and build up to more activity.
 

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Get the facts

More than half of all Australian adults are not active enough
More than half of all Australian adults are not active enough [4]
Exercise reduces your risk of colon, endometrial and breast cancer
Exercise reduces your risk of colon, endometrial and breast cancer [7]
Physical inactivity is responsible for 16%25 of the bowel cancer burden
Physical inactivity is responsible for 16% of the bowel cancer burden [5]

 


How does regular exercise prevent cancer?

Exercising regularly helps to protect against overweight and obesity, which are risk factors for cancer.6 Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health and wellbeing, and for preventing cancer.

In fact, research shows that exercise reduces your risk of colonendometrial, and breast cancer. Research also suggests that exercise may reduce your risk of oesophageal, lung and liver cancer, and that being sedentary (inactive) may increase your risk of endometrial cancer.[7]

Getting more movement in your every day:

  • helps with weight loss or maintenance of a healthy weight[8]
  •  reduces insulin and insulin-like growth factors that can cause cancer cells to grow[8]
  • moves waste and cancer-causing toxins out of the body faster[8]
  • strengthens the immune system to help prevent cancer cells from growing[8]
  •  lowers blood oestrogen levels, important for lowering breast cancer risk[8]
  • improves mood and promotes a positive outlook.[9]
     

Our recommendation

 Our recommendation

Get up to one hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity each day to reduce your cancer risk. The more you move, the better.

 

How much exercise is enough?

Even small amounts of exercise are good for you. To maintain your general level of health, start with 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day.  Aiming for one hour of moderate intensity exercise or 30 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise every day can help cut your risk of cancer.[10]

You can do it all at once or in short 10-minute bursts throughout the day.

If you can talk while exercising, it is moderate intensity. Exercise that makes you ‘huff and puff’ is vigorous intensity.

Here are some great examples of moderate intensity activity:

  • Brisk walking to/from the train or bus stop
  • Dancing
  • Social tennis
  • Recreational swimming
  • Climbing stairs
  • Gardening
  • Cleaning windows
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Pushing a stroller
  • Cycling to/from work

Want some ideas for vigorous intensity activity?

  • Jogging
  • Aerobics
  • Fast cycling
  • Boxing
  • Competitive or team sports like football or netball
  • Lifting and carrying

Muscle strengthening activities, like weights, squats or digging in the garden, have also shown to reduce the risk of early death from cancer. Aim to do these types of exercises on at least two days each week.11

 

What if you exercise a lot but still spend most of your day sitting?

There is a difference between being physically inactive and sedentary behaviour.  Sitting for long periods at work or lying on the couch at home are examples of being sedentary. A person can exercise enough to meet the guidelines and also spend too long sitting each day.10

 

How can you build more activity into each day?

Doing some exercise is better than doing none. Start small and build up. Simple swaps can make a big difference.

More information and resources

More information and resources

Sources

  1. World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: A global perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2008. Available from: http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Second-Expert-Report.pdf
  2. Eliassen, A. H., Hankinson, S. E., Rosner, B., Holmes, M. D., & Willett, W. C. (2010). Physical activity and risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. Archives of internal medicine, 170(19), 1758–1764. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2010.363
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Burden of Cancer in Australia: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 12. Cat. no. BOD 13. Canberra: AIHW.
  4. More than half of all Australian adults are not active enough. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013. Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-12. ABS Cat. No. 4364.0.55.004. Canberra: ABS.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Impact of physical inactivity as a risk factor for chronic conditions: Australian Burden of Disease Study. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 15 Cat. no. BOD 16. Canberra: AIHW Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/impact-of-physical-inactivity-chronic-conditions/contents/table-of-contents (Accessed 7 September 2020)
  6. Estimating the future burden of cancers preventable by better diet and physical activity in Australia, Peter D Baade, Xingqiong Meng, Craig Sinclair and Philippa Youl. Med J Aust 2012; 196 (5): 337-340. || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11082. Available from: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2012/196/5/estimating-future-burden-cancers-preventable-better-diet-and-physical-activity
  7. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Physical activity and the risk of cancer. Available at dietandcancerreport.org Accessed: 8 September 2020\
  8. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Physical activity and the risk of cancer. Available from: dietandcancerreport.org
  9. Fox K. Physical activity and mental health promotion: the natural partnership. Journal of Public Mental Health. 2000 Jan 1;2(1):4-12.
  10. Australian Government, Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines Available from: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#npa1864 (Accessed Sept 9 2020)
  11. Emmanuel Stamatakis, I -Min Lee, Jason Bennie, Jonathan Freeston, Mark Hamer, Gary O’Donovan, Ding Ding, Adrian Bauman, Yorgi Mavros, Does Strength-Promoting Exercise Confer Unique Health Benefits? A Pooled Analysis of Data on 11 Population Cohorts With All-Cause, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Mortality Endpoints, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 1102–1112, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwx345