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

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

In recent years, research on sedentary behaviour has increased dramatically and there is growing evidence that serious health risks may be connected to prolonged and excessive sitting, even in those who meet the recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days. Although the science is still emerging, a variety of studies warn that sedentary lifestyles are likely to be causing as many deaths as smoking.2

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lack of physical activity is one of the top four leading causes of preventable death worldwide, ahead of high cholesterol, alcohol and drug abuse.

A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It can also contribute to weight gain, and being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 common cancers.

What can health professionals do?

Encourage people to break up sedentary activities like watching television, reading and using a computer, by taking walking or standing breaks every 30 minutes.


  1. World Cancer Research Fund UK. Physical activity and cancer prevention. 2016.
  2. Get Britain Standing. Health Risks. 2016.