Getting Active and Cancer

The Key Points: 

Suggestions on how to get active:

Please talk to your GP before starting a new exercise regime.

  • Set a reminder to get up and move more. You can do this after each meeting by doing a few minutes’ walk or stretch. Moving a little and often (every 30 to 60 minutes) can have profound effects on your physical health and reduce your risk of certain types of cancers.
  • Before you start your workday, enjoy a 10-minute walk in the morning and repeat this once you have finished in the afternoon to get more steps in your day.
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy and see if a friend or family member wants to get involved. Getting active with a friend or family member can help you get motivated and most importantly stay motivated.
  • When first starting out, start off slowly and build the duration and intensity of physical activity up over time. This helps your body to adapt over time and reduces muscle soreness the next day.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week, ensure not to have more than 2 days of rest between physical activity sessions.

Getting Active & Cancer: The Key Points

  • Long periods of time spent sitting is defined as a sedentary lifestyle. This is one of the major risk factors for developing many chronic conditions including certain cancers. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with increasing the markers of chronic diseases such as weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood glucose levels1,2.
  • There is clear scientific evidence showing that being regularly physically active lowers your risk to cancer. In one study, women who were the most physically active had a 12-21% lower risk of breast cancer than compared to women who were the least physically active3.
  • Physical activity has many positive biological effects on the body such as reducing inflammation, high blood levels of insulin, sex hormones (e.g. oestrogen and growth factors), while supporting your immune systems function and managing your weight4.
  • As well as physical activity helping to reduce your risk of certain cancers, there is strong evidence to show that moderate intensity physical activity such as walking, jogging or cycling can help during and after cancer treatment. This is due to exercise reducing cancer-related outcomes which include anxiety, depression and fatigue while improving your physical function and sleep5.


    1. Patel, A.V., Hildebrand, J.S., Campbell, P.T., Teras, L.R., Craft, L.L., McCullough, M.L., and Gapstur, S.M. (2015). “Leisure-Time Spent Sitting and Site-Specific Cancer Incidence in a Large U.S. Cohort.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 24(9): 1350-1359.
    2. Ford, E.S., Kohl, H.W., Mokdad, A.H., and Ajani, U.A. (2012). “Sedentary Behavior, Physical Activity, and the Metabolic Syndrome among U.S. Adults.” Obesity Research. 13(3): 608-614.
    3. Pizot, C., Boniol, M., Mullie, P., Koechlin, A., Boniol, M., Boyle, P., and Autier, P. (2015). “Physical activity, hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer risk: A meta-analysis of prospective studies.” European Journal of Cancer. 52: 128-54
    4. Winzer, B.M., Whiteman, D.C., Reeves, M.M., and Paratz, J.D. (2011). “Physical activity and cancer prevention: a systematic review of clinical trials.” Cancer Causes & Control. 22(6):811-26.
    5. Schmitz, K.H., Campbell, A.M., Stuiver, M.M., Pinto, B.M., Schwartz, A.L., et al. (2019). “Exercise is medicine in oncology: Engaging clinicians to help patients move through cancer.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 69(6): 468-484.