Exercise as Cancer Prevention

Exercise Can Help Reduce Cancer Risk

  • There are plenty of good reasons to make exercise a regular part of your routine, including this one: It may help safeguard against cancer.  

    Regular physical activity is tied to lower chances of several types of cancer, including:  

    • Bladder 
    • Breast  
    • Colon 
    • Endometrial 
    • Esophageal 
    • Head and neck 
    • Kidney 
    • Liver 
    • Lung 
    • Ovarian  
    • Pancreatic 
    • Prostate 
    • Stomach 

    How exercise affects cancer risk 

    Regular physical activity can help you reach or maintain a healthy body weight. That's important because obesity raises the risk for many cancer types, including breast (for women who have gone through menopause), colon, and prostate cancers. Losing weight may help people with obesity to lower their cancer risk.  

    That's not all. Exercise helps lower levels of certain hormones, such as estrogen and insulin, which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. It also plays a role in reducing chronic inflammation, which may lead to tissue damage that raises cancer risk.  

    Finally, being active keeps your immune system firing on all cylinders. That might aid in cancer protection too.   

    What’s the best exercise? 

    There’s no secret formula to prevent cancer. But you'll reap the biggest benefits from being active every day. That means the best exercise is one you’ll enjoy. Your doctor can help recommend goals and activities that are right for you too—and you should always check with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine. But, for most adults, a good goal includes a mix of aerobic, balance-boosting, and strength-building activities.  

    When it comes to aerobic activities, how much you need depends on how intense your exercise is. If you choose moderate-intensity activities, try for 150 to 300 minutes each week. Moderate-intensity activities might include walking or playing golf or doubles tennis. It can also include movements you do anyway, such as yardwork or any lifting and walking you do as part of your job.  

    Increasing your exercise intensity can let you decrease the recommended time. Most adults need just 75 to 100 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. That might include:  

    • Basketball. 
    • Running. 
    • Fast bicycling. 
    • Martial arts. 
    • Singles tennis. 
    • Soccer. 

    Balance your routine 

    When it comes to exercising for health, aerobic exercise isn’t the whole picture. Most adults should also include muscle-strengthening activities—such as body-weight exercises or weightlifting—at least two days a week, as well as balance-training routines like yoga or tai chi. 

    Keep in mind that you don't need to get all of your day's activity in one long stretch. Breaking things up throughout the day works just as well, and it may be easier on your schedule. Even short spurts of activity (like climbing a few flights of stairs or taking a quick, brisk walk after lunch) can help to safeguard against cancer, research suggests.  

    If you have the time and ability to move more, do so. Spending less time sitting, lying down, watching TV, or using screen-based devices is always a smart move when it comes to defending against cancer. In fact, one major study estimated that 46,000 U.S. cancer cases could be prevented each year if inactive adults exercised for five hours per week. 

    Finally, know that any time is a good time to be more active. If you’re new to exercising, start slow—you might try just a short walk. You can gradually build up as your fitness level improves.  Need extra motivation? Consider signing up for one of our upcoming walk and run events