Delaying decline in pulmonary function with physical activity: a 25-year follow-up

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Aug 15;168(4):494-9. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200208-954OC. Epub 2003 Jun 5.


The importance of physical activity for health is well recognized, but little is known about the influence of physical activity on pulmonary function. We have examined whether physical activity could slow down the decline in pulmonary function among the southwestern rural Finnish cohort of the Seven Countries Study. Physical activity was estimated by kilometers walked, cycled, and skied daily. We had complete data for 429 men for 10 years, 275 men for 20 years, and 186 men for 25 years. During the first 10 years, the decline in FEV was 9.8 ml/year less among men in the highest tertile of baseline physical activity than in men in the lowest tertile. According to the mean physical activity over either 20 or 25 years, men in the highest tertile also lost less pulmonary function (p = 0.009 and p = 0.043, respectively). A similar beneficial effect was observed in all smoking categories. In mortality analysis, continued high physical activity and an increase in activity to high level were associated with lower mortality. In conclusion, results indicated that physical activity is associated with a slower decline in pulmonary function and with lower mortality, and thus, middle-aged and older people should be encouraged to enjoy exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bicycling / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Finland
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maximal Midexpiratory Flow Rate / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Rural Health
  • Skiing / physiology
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Walking / physiology