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The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity
  1. Elin Ekblom-Bak1,2,
  2. Björn Ekblom2,
  3. Max Vikström3,
  4. Ulf de Faire1,3,
  5. Mai-Lis Hellénius1
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2Åstrand Laboratory of Work Physiology, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Department of Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Elin Ekblom-Bak, Åstrand Laboratory of Work Physiology, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Box 5626, Stockholm 114 86, Sweden; eline{at}


Background Sedentary time is increasing in all societies and results in limited non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) of daily life. The importance of low NEPA for cardiovascular health and longevity is limited, especially in elderly.

Aim To examine the association between NEPA and cardiovascular health at baseline as well as the risk of a first cardiovascular disease (CVD) event and total mortality after 12.5 years.

Study design Cohort study.

Material and methods Every third 60-year-old man and woman in Stockholm County was invited to a health screening study; 4232 individuals participated (78% response rate). At baseline, NEPA and exercise habits were assessed from a self-administrated questionnaire and cardiovascular health was established through physical examinations and laboratory tests. The participants were followed for an average of 12.5 years for the assessment of CVD events and mortality.

Results At baseline, high NEPA was, regardless of regular exercise and compared with low NEPA, associated with more preferable waist circumference, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides in both sexes and with lower insulin, glucose and fibrinogen levels in men. Moreover, the occurrence of the metabolic syndrome was significantly lower in those with higher NEPA levels in non-exercising and regularly exercising individuals. Furthermore, reporting a high NEPA level, compared with low, was associated with a lower risk of a first CVD event (HR=0.73; 95% CI 0.57 to 0.94) and lower all-cause mortality (0.70; 0.53 to 0.98).

Conclusions A generally active daily life was, regardless of exercising regularly or not, associated with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults.

  • Cardiovascular epidemiology
  • Health promotion through physical activity

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