Cancer Survivors and Physical Activity

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In 2017, 35.5% of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reported no physical activity in their leisure time.

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Introduction

As the number of cancer survivors grows and expected survival time increases, the health behaviors of these individuals are becoming an important focus of attention. Adoption or maintenance of healthy lifestyles after cancer has the potential to reduce both cancer- and non-cancer-related morbidity and mortality. Tracking these behaviors permits evaluation of how well cancer control efforts are working to reduce unnecessary disability and death among those with a history of cancer.

To enhance the length and health-related quality of life of cancer survivors, efforts are needed to encourage adequate physical activity. Physical activity may improve treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrium (lining of the uterus). Being active may also help to prevent weight gain and obesity, which can reduce the risk of developing cancers that have been linked to excess body weight. In addition to cancer risk, physical activity may also lower a person’s risk of other health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis (bone thinning).

Measure

The percentage of cancer survivors reporting no physical activity are based on the self-reporting of individuals with a cancer history who are interviewed as part of the annual population-based National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Participants were asked how often they perform light, moderate, or vigorous activity for at least 10 minutes.

Healthy People 2020 Target

  • There is no Healthy People 2020 target for physical activity among cancer survivors, though it does include a national objective to increase the mental and physical health-related quality of life of cancer survivors.  However, it is reasonable to set this at the goal determined for the general population, which is to reduce the proportion of adults who engage in no leisure time physical activity to 32.6 percent.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Note: Goals are indicated as blue line on Detailed Trend Graphs.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2017.

Trends and Most Recent EstimatesHelp with navigating the graphs and data tables

No Leisure Time Physical Activty

By Sex
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by sex, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by sex, 1997-2017 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 35.5 33.0 - 37.9
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 34.1 30.5 - 37.8
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 37.1 34.0 - 40.3
By Age
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age, 1997-2017 Ages 18-44Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-44 22.0 16.0 - 29.3
Ages 45-64Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 45-64 29.5 25.4 - 33.9
Ages 65 and olderClick to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 65 and older 41.1 37.9 - 44.4
Compared to Remaining U.S. Population
Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age : 2008-2017
Overview graph Age Group Cancer Survivor Remaining U.S. Population
Percent of population Confidence Interval Percent of population Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age : 2008-2017 Ages 18-44 27.6 24.9 - 30.5 25.4 24.9 - 25.9
Ages 45-64 33.7 32.3 - 35.1 31.8 31.2 - 32.4
Ages 65 and older 43.6 42.5 - 44.7 43.3 42.6 - 44.0

Meet Federal Guidelines

By Sex
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by sex, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by sex, 1997-2017 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 16.7 14.9 - 18.7
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 18.3 15.3 - 21.7
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 15.4 13.2 - 17.9
By Age
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by age, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by age, 1997-2017 Ages 18-44Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-44 28.0 21.3 - 35.9
Ages 45-64Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 45-64 19.8 16.4 - 23.6
Ages 65 and olderClick to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 65 and older 13.1 11.2 - 15.3
Compared to Remaining U.S. Population
Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by age : 2008-2017
Overview graph Age Group Cancer Survivor Remaining U.S. Population
Percent of population Confidence Interval Percent of population Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by age : 2008-2017 Ages 18-44 22.4 20.1 - 24.9 25.6 25.2 - 25.9
Ages 45-64 16.7 15.6 - 17.9 17.8 17.4 - 18.2
Ages 65 and older 11.6 10.9 - 12.4 11.4 11.0 - 11.8

Evidence-based Resources

Resources are available to assist cancer control planners, program staff, and researchers to design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based survivorship programs.  Visit Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.- survivorship for data on cancer incidence, research syntheses, cancer control plans, research-tested interventions, interactive communities of practice, and other resources. 

Additional Information on Cancer Survivors and Physical Activity

For the public

Scientific reports

Year Range

1997-2017

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2013-2017

Summary Tables

Survival, Smoking, Obesity, Physical Activity

Recent Summary Trend

Falling

Desired Direction

Falling