Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: “Step It Up!” Walking Campaign

by Katy Henke

In early September 2015, Vivek Murthy, MD, the Surgeon General of the United States, began a national campaign to increase the amount of physical activity Americans engage in each day (see video below).  The campaign, called Step It Up!, works not only to get Americans walking more but also to help facilitate walking by increasing the number of safe and reliable walking paths in people’s cities and neighborhoods (see video below).

Convincing evidence shows that exercise can lower the risk of breast, colon, and uterine cancers (1). Many national organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control (2), recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days per week to help prevent cancer.

Even if walking’s not your thing, there are many other ways to take part in the Step It Up! campaign while reducing your cancer risk. Choose any physical activity you enjoy, such as gardening, cycling, or dancing. And try doing these activities with someone else to keep you motivated.

For long lasting health effects, make your exercise routine a habit in your household. Set aside time each day to ensure you are able to make exercise a health priority. If you feel overwhelmed at exercising that much at one time, break up your routine into 10 minutes, three times a day in order to meet your goal. For those adults who have children, walk with them to school in the morning and encourage outside activities when appropriate. Healthy habits can start at a young age too, and help reduce their risk of cancer.

In addition to helping prevent cancer, regular exercise has other great benefits, including (3):

  • Helping with weight control
  • Reducing the  risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthening  muscles and bones
  • Improving  mental health and mood
  • Improving ability to complete daily tasks

To learn more:

Step It Up! walking campaign 

8IGHT WAYS to Stay Healthy and Prevent Cancer.


1. World Cancer Research Fund; Continuous Update Project. Cancer Prevention & Survival: Summary of global evidence on diet, weight, physical activity & what increases or decreases your risk of cancer. September 2015 Edition.

2.  Center for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? 2015 Jun 4.

3.  Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity and health. 2015 Jun 4.

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