National Cancer Institute  U.S. National Institutes of Health

Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011/2012 Update

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Smoking Initiation
Youth Smoking
Adult Smoking
Quitting Smoking
Clinicians’ Advice to Quit Smoking
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Dependence Treatments
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Red Meat Consumption
Fat Consumption
Alcohol Consumption
> Physical Activity
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Secondhand Smoke
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Early Detection
Life After Cancer
End of Life

Physical Activity
Prevention: Behavioral Factors

Approximately one-third of adults get no physical activity in their leisure time.

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Physical Activity and Cancer

Physical activity at work or during leisure-time is linked to a 30 percent lower risk of getting colon cancer. Both vigorous and moderate levels of physical activity appear to reduce this risk. Physical activity is also connected to a lower risk of breast cancer and possibly lung and endometrial cancers. Studies continue to examine whether physical activity has a role in reducing the chances of getting other cancers.

Physical activity improves quality of life among cancer patients and survivors. Studies are beginning to explore the potential for physical activity to improve cancer survival. Studies have not yet determined if any specific types of physical activity, such as aerobic, strength, or flexibility training, have different effects on cancer outcomes.

Several national groups have recommended that people engage in regular physical activity. In late 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that recommend at least 1 hour of physical activity every day for children and adolescents and 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity for adults each week. This was a slight departure from former physical activity recommendations, which focused on a daily routine rather than a cumulative weekly total for adults. Previous recommendations suggested engaging in at least 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity for most (5 or more) days of the week.

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Percentage of adults aged 18 and older who reported no leisure time physical activity during the past month.

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Period – 1997–2010

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Trends – Falling from 1997–2002 for both sexes combined and for females; stable from 2002–2006 for both sexes and to 2007 for females; stable from 1997–2006 for males; falling from 2006–2010 for both sexes combined and males and from 2007–2010 for females.

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Most Recent Estimates

The 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an in-person household survey, indicates that 32 percent of adults aged 18 and older reported no physical activity in their leisure time.

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Healthy People 2020 Target

Reduce to 32.6 percent the percent of adults who engage in no leisure-time physical activity.

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Groups at High Risk for Being Inactive in Their Leisure Time

Women are more likely than men, and blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites, to report no leisure-time physical activity. Lack of physical activity is also more common among those with lower incomes.

For youth, physical activity is lower among females, especially black females. Physical activity also decreases as children get older.

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Key Issues

Since the mid 1980s, fewer high school students have taken part in physical education classes.

Removing barriers (such as lack of physical education classes) and setting up supports (such as bicycle and walking paths) can help promote physically active lifestyles.

Physical activity appears to be effective in reducing the amount of weight gained during and after treatment of breast cancer and improves quality of life for cancer survivors.

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Additional Information on Physical Activity

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