Physical Activity


The regular practice of physical activity is an effective strategy under several points of view: on the one hand it helps to keep your weight under control and on the other it helps to improve hormone levels and to strengthen the immune system. 



    Maintenance of a healthy weight throughout life may be one of the most important ways to protect against cancer. This will also protect against a number of other common chronic diseases. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of some cancers. Overweight and obesity also increase the risk of conditions including dyslipidemia, hypertension and stroke, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Overweight in childhood and early life is liable to be followed by overweight and obesity in adulthood.



    If you are overweight, it is important not to feel overwhelmed by what you think is your ideal target weight. If you need to lose excess weight, any loss is better than none. If you can at least manage around five to 10 per cent total body weight loss this will result in some real benefits to your health.


    There are two great ways of checking that you're keeping your body fat on track:


    Your BMI

    The range of normal weight has been usually identified as a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9; overweight and obesity has been identified as a BMI of 25 or over 30, respectively. The Panel recommends that the population median lie between 21 and 23, which allows for this variation.

    To work out your BMI:

    • Measure your height, in meters
    • Weigh yourself, in kilograms
    • Divide your weight by your height squared (that’s your height multiplied by your height) to work out your BMI.

    If your BMI is already within this range, that’s a great start.


    Your waist measurement

    Excess body fat around your waist can increase your risk of cancer and heart disease. So, if you are an apple shape, it's especially important to keep a healthy waistline. As a guide, a healthy waist measurement is less than 80cm in women and less than 94cm in men.



    Tips to maintain a healthy weight:

    1. Eat healthily by lowering the energy density of your diet – find out how on the following pages
    2. Move more – increase your physical activity levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day
    3. Keep an eye on your portion sizes – try not to finish up leftovers when you're clearing away
    4. When out in a restaurant, order a smaller portion or share with a friend and don't feel pressurized to finish everything on your plate
    5. Avoid sugary drinks – they have little nutritional value but contain a lot of calories


    All forms of physical activity protect against some cancers, as well as against weight gain, overweight, and obesity; correspondingly, sedentary ways of life are a cause of these cancers and of weight gain, overweight, and obesity. The link between physical activity and reduced cancer risk is clear but scientists are still investigating exactly how this connection works. Current research has identified some biological effects of physical activity that seem to play a role in cancer prevention.

    Physical activity:

    • Helps move food through our digestive system, reducing the amount of contact cancer-causing substances have with the lining of the bowel
    • Reduces body fat, which is linked to several cancers
    • Strengthens our immune system
    • Lowers insulin resistance (a condition where the hormone insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar levels) which has a role in cancer development



    Moderate physical activity can readily be built into everyday life. It is not necessary to devote a continuous half hour every day to moderate activity. The best choice of vigorous physical activity is that which is most enjoyable for the family or the individual — be it swimming, running, dancing, rowing, cycling, hill walking, aerobic workouts, or team games such as football and badminton. People whose work is sedentary should take special care to build moderate and vigorous physical activity into their everyday lives. It is also important to avoid long periods of sedentary behaviour, such as watching television. This behaviour is also often associated with consumption of energy-dense food and sugary drinks.



    Top tips for increasing your physical activity throughout the day:

    • Walk more – try getting off the bus one stop early and briskly walking to your destination. Aim to take 10,000 steps a day. Use a pedometer to keep count of your steps
    • Put on some music when doing housework to make it more energetic
    • Take the stairs instead of the lift
    • If you are seeing a friend for coffee, why not suggest a walk first
    • Take your children or grandchildren swimming or to the park – by doing this not only are you increasing your physical activity but you are helping children to develop good habits for the future






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