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Britain’s women must get moving, warns cancer charity

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by Cancer Research UK | News

25 February 2003

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Four out of five British women are endangering their health by failing to take enough exercise, according to Britain’s leading cancer charity.

A national poll1, commissioned by Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life and Tesco, has found that most women in Britain exercise less than three times a week for 30 minutes or more – and one in four women never do any exercise at all.

The survey, which is being used to launch the 10th anniversary of Race for Life2, the charity’s women-only 5km fundraising event, reveals that only one in five women meet the government recommendation of exercising five times a week or more for 30 minutes.

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information for Cancer Research UK, says: “These statistics are deeply concerning as regular exercise is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is very worrying that such a large proportion of British women take less than the recommended amount of exercise, or no exercise at all. This could lead to serious health problems in the future.

“It is essential this problem is addressed and that women are encouraged to increase the amount of regular exercise they take.”

The survey follows a review by Cancer Research UK funded researchers at Bristol University, that shows regular exercise can cut the risk of bowel cancer by up to 50 per cent and may help prevent breast, lung and endometrial3 cancer.

Researchers in Bristol have also shown that exercise could help patients recover from cancer.

Clare Stevinson from the Department of Exercise and Health Sciences at Bristol University, is doing further research on how exercise appears to benefit cancer patients undergoing treatment.

She says: “The news that British women do so little exercise is concerning if you set it against our research that suggests what a huge advantage exercise can be in reducing the risk of some cancers.

“I would advise women to try and work regular exercise, such as a brisk walk, into their daily routine.”

The survey has also highlighted the reasons why women are often not exercising enough. Nearly 40 per cent of women said that lack of time stopped them from exercising more often.

Nearly a fifth admitted that they did not exercise as much as they felt they should due to a lack of motivation.

Louise Holland, Cancer Research UK’s National Events Director and Head of Race for Life, says: “This survey reveals that women often perceive exercise as too time consuming, but this doesn’t need to be the case.

“Vigorous walking or running doesn’t need to take long – but it can make a huge difference to an individual’s health over the long term. Race for Life is a great way for women to get fit, have something to aim towards and help fight cancer.”

Since Race for Life first launched in 1994, it has inspired over 709,000 women to get moving and help beat cancer faster. The event has grown to become one of the nation’s most important fundraising events. Already, thanks in part to these funds, new treatments are being developed and lives are being saved.

Fiona Mason, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Tesco, says: “As well as being one of the UK’s largest employers of women and National Presenting Sponsor of Race for Life, over 80 per cent of our customers are female, so we are committed to encouraging them to lead healthy lifestyles. I would urge women to use Race for Life as the first step to being fitter.”

For this 10th anniversary, Race for Life hopes to beat all previous years and raise £17.5 million towards treating, curing and preventing cancers that affect women.

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is proudly supported by Tesco as National Presenting Sponsor.

Other sponsors and National Media Partners include Buxton, Nivea, Soreen, Essentials, Now, Runners World and



  1. By the by the MORI Social Research Institute.
  2. Race for Life is a unique series of women-only runs or walks, raising money for Cancer Research UK and sponsored by Tesco. Since it started in 1994, Race for Life has grown to become one of the nation’s most important fundraising events, raising over £35million towards treating, curing and preventing cancers that affect women.
  3. Cancer of the womb