Is objectively measured light-intensity physical activity associated with health outcomes after adjustment for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in adults? A systematic review

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2018 Jul 9;15(1):65. doi: 10.1186/s12966-018-0695-z.


Background: An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that light-intensity physical activity (LPA) confers health benefits after adjustment for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The purpose of this systematic review was to summarize existing epidemiological evidence on associations of objectively measured LPA with health outcomes in adults.

Methods: This review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. We searched on PubMed, Web of Science, CINAL, and Cochrane Library for articles analyzing the association between objectively determined LPA and health outcomes that were published up to January 2017. Data were extracted regarding authors, publication year, country of survey, study setting, number of participants, study design, physical activity (PA) assessment (type of accelerometer and intensity), health outcomes, confounders, and results (summary measures and association). A coding system was used to summarize the results.

Results: Of the 3254 studies identified, 24 cross-sectional and 6 longitudinal studies were included in this review. Most of the studies targeted the Western population. LPA was inversely associated with all-cause mortality risk and associated favorably with some cardiometabolic risk factors including waist circumference, triglyceride levels, insulin, and presence of metabolic syndrome. Only a small amount of data were available on mental health and cognitive function.

Conclusions: LPA appears to be beneficially associated with important health outcomes after adjustment for MVPA in the adult population. Although current global PA guidelines recommend only MVPA, promoting LPA may confer additional health benefits.

Keywords: Accerelometry; Epidemiology; Lifestyle activity; Physical activity; Public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cause of Death
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Waist Circumference


  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides