Physical activity, obesity and cardiovascular diseases

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2005;(170):137-63. doi: 10.1007/3-540-27661-0_4.


Sedentary lifestyle and overweight are major public health, clinical, and economical problems in modern societies. The worldwide epidemic of excess weight is due to imbalance between physical activity and dietary energy intake. Sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and consequent overweight and obesity markedly increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Regular physical activity 45-60 min per day prevents unhealthy weight gain and obesity, whereas sedentary behaviors such as watching television promote them. Regular exercise can markedly reduce body weight and fat mass without dietary caloric restriction in overweight individuals. An increase in total energy expenditure appears to be the most important determinant of successful exercise-induced weight loss. The best long-term results may be achieved when physical activity produces an energy expenditure of at least 2,500 kcal/week. Yet, the optimal approach in weight reduction programs appears to be a combination of regular physical activity and caloric restriction. A minimum of 60 min, but most likely 80-90 min of moderate-intensity physical activity per day may be needed to avoid or limit weight regain in formerly overweight or obese individuals. Regular moderate intensity physical activity, a healthy diet, and avoiding unhealthy weight gain are effective and safe ways to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases and to reduce premature mortality in all population groups. Although the efforts to promote cardiovascular health concern the whole population, particular attention should be paid to individuals who are physically inactive, have unhealthy diets or are prone to weight gain. They have the highest risk for worsening of the cardiovascular risk factor profile and for cardiovascular disease. To combat the epidemic of overweight and to improve cardiovascular health at a population level, it is important to develop strategies to increase habitual physical activity and to prevent overweight and obesity in collaboration with communities, families, schools, work sites, health care professionals, media and policymakers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain