n International SportMed Journal - Physical activity for health : understanding the epidemiological evidence for risk benefits




Physical activity is associated with lowered risk of all-cause mortality, as well as mortality and morbidity associated with chronic lifestyle diseases. This effect appears to be dose-response related, and the early adaptations from sedentary living to becoming moderately active seem to have the greatest effect on reducing risk for chronic lifestyle diseases. Longitudinal cohort studies have allowed for the estimation of relative risk. Furthermore, they have provided an opportunity to corroborate the existing recommendations that 30 minutes of physical activity on most days is protective for many chronic diseases. Data from the Nurse's Health Study showed that brisk walking was as beneficial as was vigorous activity in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. On the other hand, data from the Harvard Alumni Study suggest that vigorous activity provides the most protection against all-cause mortality. This article examines the effect of potential confounders and effect modifiers on the interpretation of the association between physical activity and health.


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