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Australian women have the 8th highest rate of cancers that can be linked to lack of exercise

Australia has the 8th highest cancer level for women in the world according to the World Cancer Research Fund International.

“When you look at what the top five cancers are for Australian women, breast and colorectal cancers are prominent. Both of these cancers can be linked back to a lack of exercise,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, Executive Officer of Exercise & Sports Science Australia.

Australia has the 13th highest rate of breast cancer and is 8th in the world for forms of colorectal cancer.

“Since the first report linking physical inactivity and cancer risk in 1922, there have been hundreds of reports that show the direct link between this relationship. Scientific evidence supporting physical activity is now considered ‘strong’ and ‘convincing’ for breast and colon/colorectal cancers.”

“We hear every day that people are just not moving enough, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics only 43% of adults actually met the “sufficiently active” threshold,” says Anita.

“What we find even more alarming is the fact that exercise is still not recognised as an essential part of cancer rehabilitation and standard care.”

Physical activity during or following cancer treatment can help with:

  • Improves cardiovascular function
  • Improves body composition (increase muscles mass, decreases body fat)
  • Improves body image, self esteem and mood
  • Reduces the number and severity of side effects (nausea, fatigue and pain)
  • Reduces hospitalisation duration
  • Improves chemotherapy completion rates
  • Reduces stress, depression and anxiety

“Findings have also shown that participation in physical activity reduces the risk of recurrence and death by up to half, when compared with those who are sedentary,” says Anita.

There are limited programs available in Australia that focus on the psychosocial and physical concerns of cancer patients, and those that do focus on exercise fall well below what current research recommends.

“Physical inactivity is responsible for 14% of colon cancers and 11% of post-menopausal breast cancer. Couple this with the positive effect exercise has on recovery from these cancers, it leaves us scratching our heads – why are we not moving more?” says Anita.