Physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease: what does the new epidemiological evidence show?

Curr Opin Cardiol. 2013 Sep;28(5):575-83. doi: 10.1097/HCO.0b013e328364289c.


Purpose of review: Abundant evidence has documented inverse associations of physical activity and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, the effects of different types of physical activity (e.g., leisure time and occupational physical activity) are still poorly understood.

Recent findings: Drawing on recommended and established guidelines for study selection, we identified and included 23 prospective epidemiological studies published during the last 2 years. These studies included a total of more than 790 000 adults at baseline with some 22 000 incident cases occurring during follow-up. Our findings suggest that moderate and high levels of leisure time physical activity are associated with a moderately reduced risk of CVD. In contrast, moderate and high levels of occupational physical activity showed weak positive associations, that is, a slightly increased risk of CVD.

Summary: This updated meta-analysis supports the notion of primary prevention of CVD through engagement in leisure time physical activity. The role of occupational physical activity in CVD prevention is questionable.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Risk
  • Work / statistics & numerical data*