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Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2007 Update

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Physical Activity
Prevention: Behavioral Factors

Fewer than two-thirds of adults get any 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 with a lower risk of breast cancer and possibly lung and endometrial cancer. Studies continue to look at 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 one hour of physical activity every day for children and adolescents, and 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity or one hour 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 had no leisure-time physical activity during the past month.

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Period – 1997–2006

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Trends – Falling, then non-significant change.

This means that in 2003 slightly more adults had any physical activity in their leisure time, and this improvement may be eroding.

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Most Recent Estimates

The 2006 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an in-person household survey, indicates that 39 percent of adults 18 and older reported no physical activity in their leisure time.

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Healthy People 2010 Target

Reduce to 20 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 also is more common among those with less education.

For youth, physical activity is lower among females, especially Blacks. Also, physical activity 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 to promote physically active lifestyles.

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

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Additional Information on Physical Activity

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National Cancer InstituteDepartment of Health and Human ServicesNational Institutes of