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5 Exercise Tips to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

March 20, 2024

At least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day helps lower your risk for cancer. Regular exercise protects against many different types of cancers including breast, colon, stomach and endometrial (uterine) cancers by reducing levels of inflammation, boosting the immune system and regulating hormones such as insulin and estrogen.

The more physical activity the better, however every little bit counts. Here are some BC Cancer tips on how to get moving and stay healthy.

How much exercise a week is enough?

Adults should aim for 2.5 hours of medium- to high-intensity aerobic physical activity (exercise that makes you breathe harder and gets your heart pumping) a week. Add in bone-strengthening activities (like climbing stairs) two days a week. Youth (up to age 17) should aim for seven hours a week. An easy way to do this is to try to get your kids involved in a physical activity for one hour each day.

Sit less and move more.

A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for cancer. Even if you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes each day, if you spend the rest of the time sitting (driving, working or watching TV) you may still develop health problems. Limit your sedentary time to eight hours or less a day, including no more than three hours of screen time a day for adults and no more than two for children and youth.

Start small to create healthy habits.

Take regular breaks from sitting when you’re in front of a computer or watching TV. Consider standing up for five minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Leave the car at home and walk to the store. Get off the bus or train a stop earlier. Even light activity such as a leisurely stroll, a quick stretch or household chores have health benefits.

Find time to move your body.

Treat exercise or your weekly workouts like appointments. Schedule physical activity in your calendar and make yourself accountable to keeping those time slots. You wouldn’t blow off a dentist appointment or a meeting with a co-worker at the last minute, give yourself — and your body — the same respect.  

Make exercise fun.

Recruit friends and family to keep you company. Join a team. If you hate traditional fitness classes, find something you love instead. Try activities that don’t feel like exercise like skiing, snowshoeing, hiking or biking or something new like dancing or parkour. Play frisbee or a game of tag with your kids. Listen to music, a podcast or an audiobook to keep boredom at bay if you’re indoors on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

Ready to create some healthy exercise habits?  Sign up for Workout to Conquer Cancer – the BC Cancer Foundation’s annual fundraiser that challenges participants to move every day in May.