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Choose to MOVE

Choose to move – research indicates that regular physical activity in combination with smart food and drink choices can help lower the risk for cancer, in particular for colorectal, breast and endometrial cancers, and non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

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Research done in South Africa over the past 15 years indicates high levels of physical inactivity across the lifespan.

A recent study found that only 57 % of children aged 8 – 14 years were moderately active while 31 % did not meet the recommendation of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

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

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 South Africa.

The National Cancer Registry (2014) shows a steady increase in the number of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer which brings this cancer to among the top 4 cancers diagnosed in South Africa excluding skin cancers.

So choose to move, and associate physical activity with the green “Walk” traffic light for pedestrians, to keep the importance of this top of mind.

Adults: should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above usual activities, on five or more days of the week.

Children and adolescents: should engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five days per week.

NB: Check with your registered healthcare professional before starting an exercise programme.

Physical activity forms an integral part of energy balance. Energy balance means that you will maintain a healthy body weight if you take in the same amount of energy (diet) as you use (burn off).

If you take in more energy than you spend, you will gain weight. 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.

For a person with ideal body weight, physical activity may directly reduce the risk of cancer.

Exercise is not only beneficial to help reduce cancer risk, but also to help cancer patients and those in remission.

There are 3 Broad Categories of Exercise Intervention:

  • Exercise intervention in terms of reducing cancer risk: this applies to all patients with possible predisposing factors for developing cancer (based on healthy lifestyle, weight control, etc).
  • Exercise intervention while undergoing treatment for cancer:  to reduce fatigue, increase quality of life, as well as to promote the physiological advantages of exercising, which could promote the actual treatment.
  • Exercise intervention for cancer Survivors: to improve quality of life, as well as the development of a healthy lifestyle.


  • 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 house work, 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, etc

Find out more our CANSA Active Programme which helps raise awareness about leading a balanced lifestyle, being physically active / playing sport safely in the sun, as well as providing education on being cancer-aware by encouraging smart diet and lifestyle choices.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines ‘obesity’ or ‘being overweight’ as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health.

In South Africa there is an alarming increase in the amount of overweight and obese individuals, with more than 29% of men and 56% of women classified as being overweight or obese. Classified as a chronic disease, obesity is associated with an increased risk for cancers. 

Research shows that obesity is linked to colorectal cancer.

Researchers firmly believe that diet and lifestyle play an important role in reducing the risk for colorectal cancer.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of several other cancers, including those of the breast (in women post-menopause), endometrium (the lining of the uterus), oesophagus, pancreas, and kidney, among others.

It is also linked to other non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and hypertension.

Body Mass Index & Healthy Weight

Read information in our ‘Time to Measure Up’ document regarding:

  • how to determine your body mass index (BMI)
  • assess whether your weight is healthy or not
  • weight loss tips
  • filling your shopping trolley with healthy food
  • what your dinner plate should look like

BMI Chart

A Balanced Lifestyle is Key to Healthy Living

Read more about the importance of living a balanced lifestyle…

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