Physical activity and cancer prevention

Can being active reduce your cancer risk?

You probably know that being active can help keep your heart healthy – and the good news is that it can also reduce your risk of cancer. 

As well as helping you stay in shape, research shows that being active or doing exercise has a direct role in preventing some cancers like bowel and breast cancer.

If you’re not used to doing much activity, start by working towards 30 minutes a day – remember that anything is better than nothing.

What’s the link between physical activity and cancer risk?

We have strong evidence that being active reduces the risk of three cancers:

We could prevent about 1 in 9 cases of bowel and breast cancers just by being more active.

Scientists are still investigating exactly how physical activity reduces cancer risk, but studies show that regular activity can help keep your hormone levels healthy. Having high levels of some hormones can increase your cancer risk.

Physical activity also helps us stay in shape. This is really important because if you’re overweight you have a higher risk of some cancers.

Physical activity can also strengthen your immune system and help keep your digestive system healthy.

What type of activity should I do?

The short answer is that any type of activity is good – aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate (or vigorous) activity a day. It’s fine to break it down into manageable ten-minute slots and you can build up slowly until you reach your target. 
The more you do each day, the more you are helping to reduce your cancer risk.

Tips for keeping active

Taking a few simple steps can make all the difference

  • Make 30 minutes part of your everyday routine

There are plenty of easy ways to build activity into your daily routine – like cycling and walking. Try getting off the bus one stop earlier or parking the car a little further away from the shops.

  • Reduce the time you spend doing sedentary activities 

Time spent watching television, reading and being on the computer can all add up. Try to swap some of these sedentary activities for more active ones like going for a walk with friends or starting a new active hobby like dancing or swimming.