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Physical activity less than the recommended amount may prevent the onset of major biological risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a cohort study of 198 919 adults


Objectives We examined the dose–response relationship between physical activity (PA) and incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in adults in Taiwan.

Methods This study included 1 98 919 participants, aged 18–97 years, free of CVD, cancer and diabetes at baseline (1997–2013), who were followed until 2016. At baseline, participants were classified into five PA levels: inactive’ (0 metabolic equivalent of task (MET)-h/week), ‘lower insufficiently active’ (0.1–3.75 MET-h/week), ‘upper insufficiently active’ (3.75–7.49 MET-h/week), ‘active’ (7.5–14.99 MET-h/week) and ‘highly active’ (≥15 MET-h/week]. CVD risk factors were assessed at baseline and at follow-up by physical examination and laboratory tests. Analyses were performed with Cox regression and adjusted for the main confounders.

Results During a mean follow-up of 6.0±4.5 years (range 0.5–19 years), 20 447 individuals developed obesity, 19 619 hypertension, 21 592 hypercholesterolaemia, 14 164 atherogenic dyslipidaemia, 24 275 metabolic syndrome and 8548 type 2 diabetes. Compared with inactive participants, those in the upper insufficiently active (but not active) category had a lower risk of obesity (HR 0.92; 95% CI 0.88 to 0.95), atherogenic dyslipidaemia (0.96; 0.90 to 0.99), metabolic syndrome (0.95; 0.92 to 0.99) and type 2 diabetes (0.91; 0.86 to 0.97). Only highly active individuals showed a lower incidence of CVD risk factors than their upper insufficiently active counterparts.

Conclusion Compared with being inactive, doing half the recommended amount of PA is associated with a lower incidence of several common biological CVD risk factors. Given these benefits, half the recommended amount of PA is an evidence based target for inactive adults.

  • physical activity
  • cardiovascular
  • epidemiology
  • prevention
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