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Original Investigation
June 12, 2000

All-Cause Mortality Associated With Physical Activity During Leisure Time, Work, Sports, and Cycling to Work

Author Affiliations

From the Institute for Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Copenhagen (Dr Andersen), The Copenhagen City Heart Study, Epidemiological Research Unit, Copenhagen University Hospital, Bispebjerg (Dr Schnohr), Geriatric Institute, University Hospital, Kommunehospitalet (Dr Schroll), The Copenhagen Male Study, Epidemiological Research Unit, Copenhagen University Hospital, Bispebjerg (Dr Hein), and Copenhagen Center for Prospective Population Studies, Kommunehospitalet (Dr Andersen), Copenhagen, Denmark.

Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(11):1621-1628. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.11.1621

Background  Physical activity is associated with low mortality in men, but little is known about the association in women, different age groups, and everyday activity.

Objective  To evaluate the relationship between levels of physical activity during work, leisure time, cycling to work, and sports participation and all-cause mortality.

Design  Prospective study to assess different types of physical activity associated with risk of mortality during follow-up after the subsequent examination. Mean follow-up from examination was 14.5 years.

Setting  Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Participants  Participants were 13,375 women and 17,265 men, 20 to 93 years of age, who were randomly selected. Physical activity was assessed by self-report, and health status, including blood pressure, total cholesterol level, triglyceride levels, body mass index, smoking, and educational level, was evaluated.

Main Outcome Measure  All-cause mortality.

Results  A total of 2881 women and 5668 men died. Compared with the sedentary, age- and sex-adjusted mortality rates in leisure time physical activity groups 2 to 4 were 0.68 (95% confidence interval, 0.64-0.71), 0.61 (95% confidence interval, 0.57-0.66), and 0.53 (95% confidence interval, 0.41-0.68), respectively, with no difference between sexes and age groups. Within the moderately and highly active persons, sports participants experienced only half the mortality of nonparticipants. Bicycling to work decreased risk of mortality in approximately 40% after multivariate adjustment, including leisure time physical activity.

Conclusions  Leisure time physical activity was inversely associated with all-cause mortality in both men and women in all age groups. Benefit was found from moderate leisure time physical activity, with further benefit from sports activity and bicycling as transportation.