Chronic diseases, from cardiovascular ailments to various forms of cancer, have long been a concern for public health officials worldwide. With an increasing number of individuals leading sedentary lifestyles, the risk of these diseases is on the rise. But what if there was a way to mitigate this risk? A recent comprehensive study has shed light on how non-occupational physical activity might be the answer that health professionals have been seeking.

The Core Findings

A systematic review and cohort-level dose-response meta-analysis, conducted on sources such as PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science, delved into the correlation between physical activity and several chronic diseases in the general adult population. A whopping 196 articles were included in this review, encapsulating 94 cohorts with more than 30 million participants.

The outcomes of this research were revealing. A direct link between higher levels of activity and lower risks of chronic diseases was observed. For instance, adhering to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity per week (equivalent to 8.75 mMET-hours/week) resulted in a 31% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality and a 29% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Interestingly, while cardiovascular disease saw a substantial drop in risk, cancer mortality showed a less pronounced yet still significant reduction at 15% for the same activity levels.

This means that if every inactive individual achieved the recommended physical activity levels, an impressive 15.7% of all premature deaths could have been prevented.

A Growing Body of Evidence

This isn’t the first study highlighting the protective effects of exercise against chronic diseases. Numerous research efforts back these findings:

  1. The Global Burden of Disease Study has consistently noted the detrimental impacts of physical inactivity, ranking it among the top risk factors for global mortality.
  2. A comprehensive research study from The Lancet demonstrated that individuals engaging in regular physical activity reduced their risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes by 20-30%.
  3. According to The National Cancer Institute, physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of multiple cancers, including breast, colon, and endometrial cancers.

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Implications for Fitness Professionals

For fitness professionals, these findings offer a significant insight: exercise is not just about aesthetics or athletic performance; it’s a lifesaver. By integrating these findings into training regimens and client discussions, fitness experts can drive home the importance of regular physical activity.

Motivating clients by sharing these stats and emphasising the tangible health benefits of even small increases in daily activity can go a long way. After all, as this study suggests, shifting from inactivity to even a moderate level of exercise can provide substantial protection against debilitating diseases.

Physical activity is no longer just a means to get in shape or boost mood. It’s a crucial component in the battle against chronic diseases. The evidence is clear: moving more and sitting less can lead to a longer, healthier life.


    1. Garcia L, Pearce M, Abbas A, et al. Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality outcomes: a dose–response meta-analysis of large prospective studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2023;57:979-989. Click here to review the full research article
    2. Global Burden of Disease Study. (2017). Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet, 392(10159), 1789–1858. Click here to review the full research article
    3. Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E.J., Lobelo, F., et al. (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet, 380(9838), 219-229. Click here to review the full research article
    4. National Cancer Institute. (2019). Physical Activity and Cancer. Retrieved from National Cancer Institute website.

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