Physical activity

Along with other healthy lifestyle behaviours, physical activity reduces cancer risk. There is convincing evidence that physical activity protects against bowel cancer.

This means that studies have shown that people who are physically active are less likely to get bowel cancer than people who are not active. There is also probable evidence that physical activity protects against:

  • Breast cancer (postmenopausal)
  • Endometrial (lining of the womb) cancer

Being physically active helps achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. So it indirectly helps protect against cancers related to being overweight or obese such as breast cancer (in postmenopausal women), bowel cancer and pancreatic cancer.

(Source: World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Cancer: a Global Perspective. Third Expert Report. 2018)

Other benefits of physical activity

Regular physical activity reduces your risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Constipation
  • Falls
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stress
  • Type 2 diabetes

Regular physical activity also promotes:

  • Balance
  • Bone strength
  • Coordination
  • Energy
  • Flexibility
  • General wellbeing
  • Muscle strength and function

Physical activity can have a positive effect on the environment as walking or cycling instead of driving a car creates less greenhouse gases, pollution and traffic congestion. Active transport also helps to save on fuel costs and being physically active can make you feel great!

Is physical activity beneficial during cancer treatment?

Research suggests that physical activity has a beneficial role for most patients during and after cancer treatment. Cancer patients often experience side effects during cancer treatment. Physical activity can help combat many of the side effects, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle wasting
  • Depression and anxiety

Regular physical activity should complement your cancer treatment. After your treatment has finished, being physically active may help prevent the cancer coming back, and can help boost your energy levels and general quality of life.

For more information talk to your doctor and contact the Cancer Council 13 11 20 for our ‘Exercise for people living with cancer' booklet.