Physical activity has been shown in large cohort studies to positively impact survival in cancer survivors. Existing randomized controlled trials showed a beneficial effect of physical activity on physical fitness, quality of life, anxiety and self-esteem; however, the small sample size, the short follow-up and the lack of standardization of physical activity intervention across studies impaired definite conclusion in terms of survival. Physical activity reduces adiposity and circulating estrogen levels and increases insulin sensitivity among other effects. A workshop was conducted at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in April 2011 to discuss the role of physical activity on cancer survival and the methodology to develop multicentre randomized intervention trials, including the type of physical activity to implement and its association with nutritional recommendations. The authors discuss the beneficial effect of physical activity on cancer survival with a main focus on breast cancer and report the conclusions from this workshop.