Exercise habits are known as a protective factor for a variety of diseases and thus recommended worldwide; however, few studies have examined long-term effects of exercise habits on mortality. We continuously monitored death status in a nationwide population sample of 7,709 eligible persons from the National Integrated Project for Prospective Observation of Noncommunicable Disease and its Trends in the Aged in 1990 (NIPPON DATA90), for which baseline data were obtained in 1990. To investigate the long-term impact of baseline exercise habits, we calculated the relative risk of non-exercisers (participants without regular voluntary exercise habits) in reference to exercisers (those with these habits) for all-cause or cause-specific mortality using a Cox proportional hazard model, in which the following confounding factors were appropriately adjusted: sex, age, body mass index, total energy intake, smoking, drinking, and history of cardiovascular disease. During a median 20 years of follow-up, 1,747 participants died, 99 of heart failure. The risk for all-cause mortality was 12% higher in non-exercisers than in exercisers (95% confidence interval, 1%-24%), which was also observed for mortality from heart failure, as 68% higher in non-exercisers than in exercises (95% confidence interval, 3%-173%). These associations were similarly observed when the participants were divided to subgroups by sex, age, and the light, moderate, or vigorous intensity of physical activity, without any significant heterogeneities (P > 0.1). The present study has revealed significant impact of exercise habits on long-term mortality risks, supporting worldwide recommendations for improvement of exercise habits.
Keywords: cardiovascular mortality; cohort study; exercise habits; mortality; population science.