How active should I be?

How much activity is recommended?

There are UK recommendations on physical activity and the activities that can help you achieve them. Healthy adults are advised to do one of the following every week:

  • at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
  • at least an hour and a quarter (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • a combination of both moderate and vigorous aerobic activity.

To do 150 minutes of activity in a week, you could do 30 minutes of activity on five days of the week. You could break this up into 10 minutes of activity, three times a day. It is important to build this up slowly, at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

It is also important to do activities that improve muscle strength on at least two days of the week. If you are older or at risk of falling, you are also advised to do activities that improve co-ordination and balance on at least two days of the week.

The infographic below shows the amount of physical activity recommended for adults. It also suggests ways of doing it.

Physical activity guide for adults
Physical activity guide for adults

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There are international guidelines for physical activity and cancer. They were developed by the American College of Sports Medicine. They are supported by the National Cancer Institute and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science. This is what they advise:

  • Physical activity is safe during and after cancer treatment.
  • Avoid being inactive.
  • Get back to your normal activities as soon as possible after treatment.
  • If possible, slowly build up to the recommended physical activity levels.

You can find out more about different types of activity and the recommendations for people of different ages from NHS Choices and the World Health Organisation.

How much activity is right for you?

What and how much you do will depend on the following:

  • How fit you were before you were diagnosed. If you were active before, you may be able to continue with the same activities when you feel able to.
  • The type of cancer and treatments you had or are still having. There may be some activities you need to be careful with.
  • Any symptoms or treatment side effects you have.
  • Your age and any long-term conditions you have, such as heart problems.
  • Whether you have bone loss, lymphoedema, peripheral neuropathy or a stoma because of the cancer or its treatment.

During treatment, your energy levels will vary from day to day. The main aim should be to try to spend less time sitting or lying down.

Choose an activity you enjoy and set some realistic goals for yourself. If you feel very tired the day after activity, you may be trying to do too much, too soon. Over time, you’ll be able to increase the amount you do.

After treatment ends, increase your activity slowly. As a general rule, and only if you can, try to slowly increase it to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week. There are more tips on keeping active in our guide Move more: your guide to becoming more active.

Back to Keeping active

Health walks

Walking is one of the most popular forms of activity and a great way to keep healthy. We work with health walk programmes all over the UK.

Getting started

It’s important to take care of yourself when you start to be more active. Your healthcare team can give you advice.

Activities near you

There are lots of organisations and websites that can help you find out what activities are available near you.

Tools to help you move more

Taking part in physical activity during and after cancer treatment can play a huge part in enabling you to take back control. We have a range of tools to help you be more active.

Who can help you get active

Talk to your physiotherapist or your doctor before you start doing physical activity. They’ll point you to appropriate exercise programmes.

Apps to help you

There are a number of digital applications that can help you on your journey to becoming more active.