Objective: Little is known regarding health-related quality of life and its relation with physical activity level in the general population. Our primary objective was to systematically review data examining this relationship.
Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO for health-related quality of life and physical activity related keywords in titles, abstracts, or indexing fields.
Results: From 1426 retrieved references, 55 citations were judged to require further evaluation. Fourteen studies were retained for data extraction and analysis; seven were cross-sectional studies, two were cohort studies, four were randomized controlled trials and one used a combined cross sectional and longitudinal design. Thirteen different methods of physical activity assessment were used. Most health-related quality of life instruments related to the Medical Outcome Study SF-36 questionnaire. Cross-sectional studies showed a consistently positive association between self-reported physical activity and health-related quality of life. The largest cross-sectional study reported an adjusted odds ratio of "having 14 or more unhealthy days" during the previous month to be 0.40 (95% Confidence Interval 0.36-0.45) for those meeting recommended levels of physical activity compared to inactive subjects. Cohort studies and randomized controlled trials tended to show a positive effect of physical activity on health-related quality of life, but similar to the cross-sectional studies, had methodological limitations.
Conclusion: Cross-sectional data showed a consistently positive association between physical activity level and health-related quality of life. Limited evidence from randomized controlled trials and cohort studies precludes a definitive statement about the nature of this association.