With the start of a new year, many Canadians are hauling out their gym bags and starting to act on a resolution to be more active in 2020. This is good news! Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a cancer-free future.

No matter what kind of physical activity you enjoy, the more you do, the more health benefits you experience. These benefits include preventing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We also know that several types of cancer are linked with physical inactivity, including breast, colorectal, lung, stomach and uterine cancers. Research shows that physical activity helps reduce the risk for these cancers because it can lower body fat, decrease inflammation, and regulate certain hormones that affect cancer growth.

Unfortunately, 7 out of 10 Canadians are not physically active enough. As a result, they are missing out on the health benefits that regular exercise offers. The ComPARe study estimated that, in 2015, about 11,600 new cancer cases in Canada were due to physical inactivity. If current inactivity trends continue, it is expected that 16,500 new cancer cases due to a lack of physical activity will be diagnosed in the year 2042. Luckily, many of these cancer cases are preventable. In fact, if 25% of Canadians become more active, about 26,000 new cancer cases could be prevented by 2042.

To get the benefits of being active, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends that adults aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day. This includes activities like bike riding or walking briskly. They get your heart going and make it challenging to have a conversation with someone, letting you know that you are working at moderate-intensity. You can also do vigorous-intensity physical activities, which make you feel “out of breath” and include running or swimming. In addition to these types of activities, it is recommended that you include strengthening exercises into your routine a couple of times per week.

If increasing the amount of physical activity you do each week seems daunting, setting a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-specific) can be a good first step. A health professional can also help you develop a plan to achieve your goal.

Share the cancer-preventing benefits of physical activity found in the ComPARe study with your friends and family. This research might encourage them to be more active, too!

Charlotte Ryder-Burbidge
Epidemiology Research Associate, Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research