Physical Activity and Cancer – Position Statement

Key Messages
Physical activity is important for good health and well-being. Physical activity can help to prevent a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Being active also helps to maintain a healthy body weight, improve mental wellbeing and helps people feel better and sleep well.

There is convincing evidence that physical activity protects against bowel cancer. There is probable evidence that being physically active reduces the risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer (especially in post-menopausal women). Physical inactivity is responsible for around 14% of bowel cancers and 11% of post-menopausal breast cancers.

As well, regular physical activity decreases the risk of weight gain, overweight and obesity, while inactivity increases risk. Having excess body weight can increase your risk of cancer of the bowel, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium, as well as breast cancer (after menopause).

Where there is evidence of a direct link between physical activity and reduced cancer risk, it suggests that the more physically active people are (excluding extreme levels), the lower their cancer risk.

For cancer prevention, at least 60 minutes per day of moderate activity or at least 30 minutes per day of vigorous physical activity may be most beneficial.

Research suggests that being sedentary for long periods, irrespective of the overall amount of physical activity, is associated with increased risk of bowel, endometrial, ovarian and prostate cancers, as well as increased overall cancer mortality in women.


Physical Activity and Cancer Position Statement