Physical activity is vital to promoting and maintaining good physical and mental health. It can help prevent and manage several non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer. However, too many of us are not meeting the recommended physical activity levels.
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend that adults do 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, with muscle-strengthening activity on at least two days each week.
There is strong evidence that physical activity helps protect against several cancers, including endometrial, breast (postmenopausal), and colorectal, as well as weight gain, overweight, and obesity. The latter is the cause of at least 13 cancers.
PHC professionals such as GPs and nurses are ideally placed to promote and support people’s becoming more active, as they are often people’s first point of contact. To do this, robust policies on promoting physical activity in primary care are needed within and between governments, local contexts, and PHC settings.
WHO clearly states that promoting physical activity in PHC is an essential tool that can make a difference as part of a whole-systems approach.
The report provides policymakers, healthcare professionals, and local partners with guidance on developing rigorous policies to promote physical activity in primary healthcare.
It draws strongly on the experience of developing and implementing physical activity promotion policies from experts in nine countries. It gives detailed snapshots of the situation in World Cancer Research Fund International’s network affiliate countries, the Netherlands, the US, and the UK – England, Scotland, and Wales. There are also further examples of policy initiatives globally.
Kendra Chow, policy and public affairs manager at World Cancer Research Fund International, said: “Being more active is crucial for good physical and mental health and can help prevent cancer. Primary healthcare plays a key role in helping people be more active. Our report provides the guidance needed to design policies to support them.
“Governments have the opportunity to meet WHO-agreed targets on increasing physical activity to improve population health and reduce the burden of NCDs, including cancer.”