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Following that basic recommendation of exercising at least half an hour a day, five days a week, could prevent at least 2,250 cases of breast and colon cancer in the country. If physical activity were performed at the level humans probably exercised when they lived in hunting and collecting societies, with around five hours of daily exercising, the prevention potential could reach up to 10,000 cases.

The calculations, conducted by a group of researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP), the Federal University of Pelotas, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), University of Queensland (Australia) and Harvard University, were published in August 2018 in Cancer Epidemiology magazine.

The idea was to cross reference consistent knowledge that already existed in other scientific studies – that showed the benefit of physical activity in protecting against these two types of cancer –, with the rate of these diseases in Brazil and the degree of exercising practiced by Brazilians.

Ideal scenario. “Scientific literature already provides a good understanding about the benefits, but we did not yet know the impact this would have in Brazil,” says Leandro Rezende, Epidemiology PhD student at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School and lead author of the study. “The idea was to compare the current cancer load registered in Brazil with what would be observed if the population engaged in an ideal level of physical activity to prevent cancer.”

This ‘ideal’, however, admits the researcher, is a daunting number. Five hours of daily physical activity would be necessary to reach the maximum prevention possible – of 10,000 fewer cases, which corresponds to 2.4% of total cancer cases currently registered in the country.

“We mentioned this within an ideal theoretical scenario. The objective of the research is not to say you have to do this, especially considering office life in cities. The PNS shows that only 6% of the population today reaches this number. It’s what people who work with occupational activities and walk the entire day do, for example, or certain types of athletes,” he said.

Reduction. Another way of presenting the data is to say that 12% of post-menopause breast cancer and 19% of colon cancer cases can be attributed to the lack of exercising in the country. With the 150 minutes of exercising recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), it would be possible to prevent 1.3% of breast cancer and 6% of colon cancer cases. As you increase the amount of physical activity, the number of cases drops more.

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Source: Giovana Girardi, O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper

Summary: Plenae team