Cancer Prevention Tips: Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day

Posted on: 15 Jan 2016

All forms of physical activity help to prevent many forms of cancer. A number of studies have found evidence that just this much physical activity can cut your risk of many common cancers by 30% to 50%.

Being physically active, along with a healthy, balanced diet, can also help you manage your weight. Being active has a wide range of benefits for the body. Physical activity has benefits above and beyond weight control, and it doesn't only reduce the risk of cancer through its effects on weight.

Hormones are chemical messages that get carried around our bodies in our blood. They help tell our bodies, and cells, what to do. Being physically active can change the levels of some hormones, including oestrogen and insulin. In women, physical activity can lower the level of oestrogen. Oestrogen is thought to fuel the development of many breast and womb cancers, so reducing the levels of this hormone could help to reduce the risk.

Activity can also reduce the amount of insulin in our blood. Insulin is very important in controlling how our bodies use and store energy from food. Changes in insulin levels can have effects all over the body. And insulin can possibly turn on signals that tell cells to multiply. Because cancer starts when cells multiply out of control, lowering insulin levels could help stop some types of cancer from developing.

Physical activity helps food move through our bowels more quickly, which reduces the amount of time that the inside lining of the bowel is in contact with any harmful chemicals. So there's less chance of them being able to cause damage that could lead to cancer.

Being active also helps control levels of inflammation in the bowel. Inflammation is a normal part of the way our bodies react to injury or infections. But it can sometimes cause even more damage, particularly when it keeps happening in the same place. This can lead to the cells multiplying much more frequently than usual, to replace dead and damaged cells, increasing the chances of mistakes that could lead to cancer. Being overweight or obese can put the body in a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation.

There is also good evidence that being active can help people during and following cancer treatment. If you are a cancer patient and want to be more active, discuss with your doctor what would work best for you.

It can be easier than you think to increase your activity levels, even if you don't do much at the moment. Making small changes, like taking the stairs instead of the lift or making short journeys on foot, can really help increase how active you are. And it's never too late to start making a difference.

The Government recommends that adults should aim to do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate activity every week. You can divide this up over the week and build up the amount of activity you do over time. This activity can include brisk walking, cycling, household tasks or dancing.

Get up and move around to break up periods of sitting time. By making small changes to your daily routine, you can increase the amount of movement and activity you do. Try to seize small opportunities to fit a bit more activity into your day – every little bit counts if it means you're sitting less.

Click here to find out how limiting consumption of energy dense foods and avoiding sugary drinks can affect your cancer risk.

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