Get active to live a healthier, longer life

Cancer Association urges us to “choose to move” as part 365 Day Health Challenge

The Cancer Association of South Africa is urging all to “choose to move” as part of its 365 Day Health Challenge, which started on World Cancer Day in February.

After all, its research indicates that regular physical activity, in combination with smart food and drink choices, can help lower the risk for cancer and non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Cansa CEO Elize Joubert said the association was concerned that research done in SA over the past 15 years “indicates high levels of physical inactivity across the lifespan”.

A recent study found that only 57% of children aged eight to 14 years were moderately active, while 31% did not meet the recommendation of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Physical activity levels tend to decrease with age, and this has been shown in other studies with adolescent and young adults, as well as older adults in SA.

Even more concerning is the fact that physical inactivity has been associated with colon and breast cancers.

In fact, physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

Cansa encourages the public to associate physical activity with the green Walk traffic light for pedestrians reminding us to keep moving.

Physical inactivity has a role to play in weight management and may indirectly lead to obesity-related cancers (which make up 40% of all cancers diagnosed).

Inactivity and obesity also contribute to increasing health care costs.

Also, being physically active has been shown to lower the risk for colorectal, breast and endometrial cancers.

“Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood, so parents and guardians should take responsibility to ensure that children are physically active and are making smart choices with regards to food and drink.” 

The aim is to try and incorporate physical movement, which can be sport-related, and wellness activities into daily routines.

And for cancer survivors, being active can help manage the side-effects of treatment such as fatigue, depression and heart damage.

“Please support Cansa’s awareness and sports events by taking part in our Cansa Active programme to raise awareness about leading a balanced lifestyle, playing sport safely in the sun, as well as providing education on being cancer-aware by encouraging smart diet and lifestyle choices. 

"Workplaces and corporates can participate in the Fit4Good Planet Fitness Cancer Challenge and enter teams to run or cycle,” Joubert said.


• Make the decision to get moving every day.

• Check with a registered healthcare practitioner before starting, especially if you’ve had a long period of physical inactivity or if you have an existing medical condition.

• Choose movement you enjoy and that gets your heart rate up.

• Choose a practical time to exercise daily, that fits in with your daily routine.

• Be on the lookout for opportunities for movement in your everyday life, like choosing to climb the stairs instead of taking the escalator or lift, or walking instead of driving, carrying your groceries instead of using a trolley, getting up and stretching regularly if you sit at a desk all day, doing your own gardening or housework, etc.

• Decide on the length of time and type of physical activity that matches your current fitness level, and gradually increase the duration and intensity of physical activity.

Work your way slowly from mild, to moderate* and then vigorous* exercise (if you’re enjoying it and feeling strong).

Your end goal should be 30 minutes of moderate* activity five times per week (adults) or 60 minutes moderate* to vigorous* activity daily (children/teens).

• If you find it difficult to be motivated to exercise on your own, ask friends, community members or colleagues to join you.

Or join community events or clubs which involve physical activity, such as your local parkrun, Run Walk for Life, hiking, bowling, or dance club, etc.

• Find ways to make physical activity a way of life for your family and a time to bond.

(* Examples of moderate activity include: brisk walking; slow cycling and gardening, while examples of vigorous activity include fast running or cycling; competitive sports, and the like.)