Healthy living

Get walking to cut cancer risk

cancer Fewer Britons walking than ever before

A cancer charity is calling on people to 'take to the streets' and get walking, after new figures reveal that the number of walking trips have fallen to their lowest level since records began.

In the past 15 years alone, the number of journeys by foot have fallen by 28 per cent, according to the Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said the figures are alarming because of the 'strong scientific evidence' linking inactivity to an increased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

The average number of walking trips taken in 1995/97 was 292 compared with 228 in 2009 and 210 last year.

The survey included all age groups, including children, and in 2010 diary data was collected from 8,100 households covering over 19,000 people.

In 2010, the average person made a total of 960 trips per year, compared with 1,086 in 1995/97 – a fall of 12 per cent. Most of the decline was accounted for by a fall in shopping and social visits.

Some 64 per cent of all trips were made by car, including 20 per cent of all trips of less than a mile. And 77 per cent of trips of less than a mile were made on foot.

Just 41 per cent of Britons walked for 20 minutes three times a week or more, while 23 per cent managed this once a week. One in five of those surveyed walked 20 minutes once a year or less.

The WCRF’s recommends that people should undertake at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

Dr Rachel Thompson, Deputy Head of Science at WCRF, said: "Being regularly physically active has such a significant effect on cancer risk that it is really important people get 30 minutes a day, however they choose to do it.

"For many, brisk walking is the most obvious way of doing it because it is also a way of getting around.

“As with other types of activity, walking can reduce body fat, boost the immune system and helps to move food through the gut more quickly – all factors that seem to play a role in reducing cancer risk.

“Just half-an-hour’s walking a day can reduce the risk from cancer and we estimate that more than 10,000 cases of breast and bowel cancer could be prevented a year in the UK through people doing a bit more of this kind of activity.

“By making small changes like walking an extra ten minutes a day, people can make a real difference to their health.”

This article was published on Mon 24 October 2011

Image © Paul Maguire -

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