Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have discovered only 3.4% are aware of the links between low levels of exercise and increased risk of cancer
While it is generally well known that regular exercise can help reduce or prevent a multitude of physical and mental health problems including heart disease, strokes, and type 2 diabetes, a new study published in the Journal of Health Communications has reported that respondents were largely unaware of that insufficient levels of exercise can contribute to an increased risk of certain types of cancer such as breast and colon.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis surveyed a diverse sample of over 1,100 participants, in hopes of identifying which types of diseases the general public believe are caused by insufficient levels of exercise. Researchers randomly selected answers from 351 participants and examined their answer to an open-ended question asking what illnesses are caused by insufficient physical activity.
While awareness around the increased risk of cardiovascular (63.5%) and metabolic (65.8%) problems was high, just 3.6% of respondents associated insufficient exercise with an increased risk of cancer. The researchers have suggested that the imbalance of public knowledge could be due to a wider focus from health campaigns, associating increased physical activity with the benefits of a healthier heart or weight loss.
The authors went on to suggest the public may better understand the associated risks between insufficient exercise and cancer with an increased focus on the links through public health campaigns.
Erika Waters, lead author of the study and Associate Professor of Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis commented: “People might be more likely to exercise if they understand just how important physical activity is to their overall health – not just their heart health.”
The authors went on to reiterate that further studies to better understand public attitudes and knowledge of the health risks from inadequate levels of exercise should be undertaken to confirm (or challenge) these findings.
The NHS recommends adults should be physically active every day, aiming to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity across the week to remain healthy. Regular physical activity can lower the risk of:
- Osteoarthritis by up to 83%
- Type 2 diabetes by up to 50%
- Colon cancer by up to 50%
- Coronary heart disease and stroke by up to 35%
- Early death by up to 30%
- Depression by up to 30%
- Dementia by 30%
- Breast cancer by up to 20%