Adolescent exercise in association with mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer among middle-aged and older Chinese women

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Aug;24(8):1270-6. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0253.


Background: Little is known regarding the role of early-life exercise, a potentially modifiable factor, in long-term adult morbidity and mortality. We utilized the Shanghai Women's Health Study (SWHS) to investigate adolescent exercise in association with cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older women.

Methods: The SWHS is a prospective cohort of 74,941 Chinese women ages 40 to 70 years recruited from 1996 to 2000. In-person interviews at enrollment assessed adolescent and adult exercise history, medical and reproductive history, and other lifestyle and socioeconomic (SES) factors. Mortality follow-up occurs via annual linkage to the Shanghai Vital Statistics Registry. Adjusted hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were derived from Cox regression models.

Results: Adjusting for birth year and other adolescent factors, adolescent exercise was associated with reduced risk of cancer, CVD, and total mortality [HRs (95% CI), 0.83 (0.72-0.95), 0.83 (0.70-0.98), and 0.78 (0.71-0.85), respectively for ≤1.33 hours (h)/week, and 0.83 (0.74-0.93), 0.62 (0.53-0.72), and 0.71 (0.66-0.77), respectively for >1.33 h/week (reference = none)]. Results were attenuated after adjustment for adult SES and lifestyle factors. Participation in sports teams was inversely associated with cancer mortality [HR (95% CI), 0.86 (0.76-0.97)]. Joint adolescent and adult exercise was associated with reduced risk of all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality [HRs (95% CIs), 0.80 (0.72-0.89), 0.83 (0.69-1.00), and 0.87 (0.74-1.01), respectively], adjusting for adult/adolescent factors, and adolescence exercise only was inversely associated with cancer mortality [HR (95% CI), 0.84 (0.71-0.98)].

Conclusions: Adolescent exercise participation, independent of adult exercise, was associated with reduced risk of cancer, CVD, and all-cause mortality.

Impact: Results support promotion of exercise in adolescence to reduce mortality in later life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult