Physical activity and all-cause mortality: an updated meta-analysis with different intensity categories

Int J Sports Med. 2009 Mar;30(3):213-24. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1128150. Epub 2009 Feb 6.


In a meta-analysis we investigated the effect of physical activity with different intensity categories on all-cause mortality. Many studies have reported positive effects of regular physical activity on primary prevention. This recent meta-analysis analyzed all-cause mortality with special reference to intensity categories. A computerized systematic literature search was performed in EMBASE, PUBMED, and MEDLINE data bases (1990-2006) for prospective cohort studies on physical leisure activity. Thirty-eight studies were identified and evaluated. The presentation refers to studies with 3 or 4 different intensities of regular physical activity according to a standard questionnaire. There was a significant association of lower all-cause mortality for active individuals compared with sedentary persons. For studies with three activity categories (mildly, moderately, and highly active) and multivariate-adjusted models, highly active men had a 22% lower risk of all-cause mortality (RR=0.78; 95% CI: 0.72 to 0.84) compared to mildly active men. For women, the relative risk was 0.69 (95% CI: 0.53 to 0.90). We observed similar results in moderately active persons compared to mildly active individuals (RR=0.81 for men and RR=0.76 for women). This association of activity to all-cause mortality was similar and significant in older subjects. Regular physical activity over longer time is strongly associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality in active subjects compared to sedentary persons. There is a dose-response curve especially from sedentary subjects to those with mild and moderate exercise with only a minor additional reduction with further increase in activity level.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Risk
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult