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Invited Commentary
December 14, 2009

Physical Activity: An Investment That Pays Multiple Health Dividends: Comment on “Combined Effects of Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Not Smoking, and Normal Waist Girth on Morbidity and Mortality in Men,” “Physical Activity and Survival in Male Colorectal Cancer Survival,” “Effects of a Television Viewing Reduction on Energy Intake and Expenditure in Overweight and Obese Adults,” and “Physical Activity and Rapid Decline in Kidney Function Among Older Adults”

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(22):2124-2127. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.413

During difficult economic times, it is especially important to invest limited resources wisely. Choosing an investment strategy that will ultimately garner rewards requires strategies that turn low-risk investments into high-yield returns. This economic analogy is relevant to strategies for investing not only in the stock market but also in our health.

Participating in a physically active lifestyle is one way to initiate or maintain a long-term investment strategy for multiple health dividends. In this issue of the Archive, 4 articles provide new evidence for the beneficial effects of physical activity on health.1-4 Two of the studies show that physical activity is associated with a delay in the development of conditions that are infrequently studied in relation to physical activity: recurrent colorectal cancer (Meyerhardt et al1) and kidney function decline in the elderly (Robinson-Cohen et al2). Putting a different slant on the concept of risk factors, Lee et al3 examine the combination of 3 health factors (cardiorespiratory fitness, not smoking, and normal waist girth) and their beneficial association with coronary heart disease morbidity as well as their effect on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Finally, the burgeoning public health challenge of reducing sedentary behaviors and the resulting effects on energy expenditure and energy intake are brought out in the randomized controlled trial by Otten et al4 to reduce television viewing among overweight or obese adults. Each of these 4 studies makes a unique and valuable contribution to the evidence relating physical activity to health and provides additional data showing that physical activity is important for many facets of health. Taken together, these studies show that a relatively small investment in a physically active lifestyle yields a large return on health.

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