29 August 2014
Patients diagnosed with two of the most common cancers (breast and prostate) could reduce their risk of dying by walking just one mile a day, according to new calculations by Walking for Health, run by Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers.
Walking one mile at a moderate pace (3mph), or for just 20 minutes a day, could reduce breast cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease by 40% while those with prostate cancer could reduce their risk by almost a third (30%).
Today’s research highlights the positive impact that walking at a moderate pace can have on your cancer prognosis. A mile a day could also reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by 40%, while bowel cancer patients could slash their risk in half by walking just 50 minutes a day.
Physical activity after cancer treatment can also reduce the impact of some debilitating side effects, such as swelling around the arm, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and weight changes.
Despite this, Macmillan estimates that currently 1.6 million of the two million people living with cancer in the UK are not active at recommended levels.
Sandra Sayce, 51, from Middlesex, joined her local Walking for Health group in 2011 following years of treatment for melanoma. Sandra says:
“I had been ill with cancer for several years, which at its worst had left me unable to walk more than 50 metres.
“When I joined my local Walking for Health group it gave me the push I needed to make those vital first steps back into physical activity; despite the cold January weather, I was able to take part in the simple, easygoing walk which was crucial to beginning my recovery.
“Since then I’ve gone from strength, and I’ve started to feel more happy and less tired. I really do think that making the decision to go on that first walk was crucial to getting myself to the position I’m in now.”
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“We know that the health benefits of physical activity are incredible and today’s research highlights the very simple reality - walking can save lives.
“For cancer patients, physical activity can not only reduce the risk of dying or the cancer coming back, but it can also help to manage some of the devastating side effects of treatment such as swelling, fatigue or anxiety.
“We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to what is a very simple and obvious solution. Physical activity is a wonder drug and health care professionals must prescribe physical activity, such as walking, as a standard part of cancer recovery.”
Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive of the Ramblers, says:
“The benefits of walking are numerous. It is increasingly clear that walking even short distances regularly can make the world of difference for those recovering from and managing cancer or other serious health conditions.
“Walking for Health offers free, short group walks across England, which are the perfect way to build confidence and fitness in a friendly, supportive space. All walks are led by friendly, knowledgeable people, specially trained for the job. Many of our walkers have long term conditions such as cancer themselves and find the companionship and fresh air a wonderful therapy.
“We want to put walking at the centre of efforts to tackle physical inactivity and echo Macmillan’s call for health professionals to prescribe walking to those who are recovering from cancer or other health conditions.”
For more information visit www.walkingforhealth.org.uk
or call 020 7339 8541.
For further information, please contact:
Cora Bauer, Media and PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2016 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
 Estimates calculated based on:
• Chief Medical Officer guideline of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-physical-activity-guidelines ), appropriate for cancer survivors in good health, built up gradually.
• For walking this must be “brisk” or “fast” walking, typically 3mph or faster:
• So if you walk for 150 minutes a week at 3mph, you will walk 7.5 miles– which equates to just over a mile, or 20 minutes a day.
• Reduction in mortality and recurrence estimates, and evidence on impact of activity on side effects of cancer treatment taken from Macmillan Cancer Support’s ‘Move More’ report on physical activity:
• Breast and prostate cancer patients can reduce their risk of dying from the disease by 30–40%if they do recommended levels of activity, compared to those doing less than one hour a week. This is equivalent to walking 7.5 miles a week or just over 1 mile or 20 minutes a day.
• Breast cancer patients could also reduce their risk of recurrence by 40% if they do recommended level of activity, compared to those doing less than one hour a week. This is equivalent to walking 7.5 miles a week or just over 1 mile or 20 minutes a day.
• Bowel cancer patients who do around six hours of moderate intensity physical activity a week could help reduce their risk of dying from the disease by around 50%, compared to those doing less than an hour. This is equivalent to walking for 18 miles a week, or just over 2.5 miles or 50 minutes a day.
 Estimate calculated by applying the physical activity rates of the general public to the total population of people living with and beyond cancer, adjusting for age and gender. We assume the rate amongst the general public is the same as people living with and beyond cancer. Sources: NHS Information Centre, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government, and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. Maddams J, et al. Cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom: estimates for 2008. British Journal of Cancer. 2009. 101: 541-547.
About Walking for Health
Together the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support run Walking for Health, helping you get and stay active. By sharing our walking and health expertise, we support 600 local schemes across England to offer short, free walks. Our aim is to help more people – including those affected by cancer – discover the joys and health benefits of walking.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk
About the Ramblers
The Ramblers helps everyone, everywhere, enjoy walking and protects the places we all love to walk. It is the only charity dedicated to looking after paths and green spaces, leading walks, opening up new places to explore and encouraging everyone to get outside and discover how walking boosts your health and your happiness.
The leading voice on walking matters, nationally and near you; we protect, maintain and keep an expert eye on every single path you walk. Because of us, you can explore the wilds of the Scottish countryside, walk along the pioneering Welsh Coast Path and enjoy England’s stunning national parks and trails.
Whether you’re just taking your first steps or are a seasoned walker, we can provide the expert advice and support you need to get the most out of the great outdoors. From our vast range of group walks to our expertly developed Ramblers Routes, we offer thousands of ways to start and keep you walking.
So if you love the great outdoors, enjoy the places you walk now and want to open up more of beautiful Britain, take an extra step and join us today. By becoming one of our members, joining our team of dedicated volunteers or simply supporting our work, together we can get everyone, everywhere walking.
For further information, please visit