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Two studies published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine have assessed the effects of exercise on mortality.

Current exercise recommendations for adults are a minimum of 75 vigorous intensity, or 150 moderate intensity minutes of exercise per week. Research continues to demonstrate the health benefits gained by increasing physical activity. Two recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of exercise in terms of mortality.

The first study, conducted in New South Wales, Australia, recruited 204 542 adults aged 45-75 years, between 2006 and 2014. The study aimed to determine the effects of varying degrees of physical activity on health and mortality. A reduced death rate was seen in participants who reported taking part in physical activity. Greater reductions in risk of death were seen with increasing amounts of physical activity. The death rate was a reported 8% in participants who reported no moderate to vigorous physical activity, which was reduced to 2% in participants who reported the highest levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (300 minutes per week, or more). The reduction in risk of mortality was found in both men and women, regardless of BMI, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. The authors of the study suggest that clinical and public health policies should adjust activity guidelines to recommend vigorous physical activity.

The second study investigated the association between physical activity and mortality in a pooled sample of participants derived from 6 studies in the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium. Over 600 000 participants were included in the study, aged between 21 and 98 years. The study reported a 20% reduction in risk of mortality in participants who took part in the recommended minimum amount of exercise, compared with participants who reported no physical activity. The risk was further reduced in participants who took part in 2-3 times the minimum recommended amount of exercise. The study also reported an upper threshold for the benefits of exercise on mortality. The upper threshold was seen when participants took part in 3-5 times the recommended minimum levels of physical activity per week. This level of physical activity corresponded to a 39% reduction in risk of mortality. The researchers suggest that health care providers should promote physical activity in those who are inactive, while not discouraging those who take part in high levels of physical activity.



Arem, H, Moore, SC, Patel, A, Hartge, P, Berrington de Gonzalez, A, Phil, D, Visvanathan, K, Campbell, PT, Freedman, M, Weiderpass, E, Adami, HO, Linet, MS, Lee, I-M, Matthews, CE. “Leisure Time Physical Activity and Mortality :  A Detailed Pooled Analysis of the Dose-Response Relationship” JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(6):959-967. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0533.

Gebel, K, Ding, D, Chey, T, Stamatakis, E, Brown WJ, Bauman, AE. “Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity on All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Australians” JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(6):970-977. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0541.

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Written by Deborah Tallarigo,  PhD

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