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, endometrial and breast cancer (in post-menopausal women).

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 stomach, bowel, kidney, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, oesophagus, ovary, endometrium, breast (after menopause) and prostate (advanced).

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.


The Overweight and obesity, physical activity and nutrition chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy provides comprehensive information on the role these factors play in cancer, including statistical data, the evidence base, policy context and priorities.