How does a change in the level of activity after middle age influence mortality? How does this compare with the effect of quitting smoking?

From: BMJ

Journal rating:
rating: 99%
Study Quality:
rating: 55%

Overall Reliability

Article Quality:
rating: 55%
rating: 50%


  • 2,205 men aged 50


  • Participants were invited to attend a health survey. They were reinvestigated at ages 60, 70, 77, and 82.
  • Participants responded to questions about leisure time physical activity at each meeting


  • Almost half of the men reported a high level of physical activity, corresponding to at least three hours of recreational sports or heavy gardening a week, 36% reported medium activity, corresponding to walks and cycling; and 15% were sedentary.
  • Men who reported high levels of physical activity were expected to live 3.8 years longer than sedentary men and 1.8 years longer than men who reported medium levels of physical activity.
  • The mortality rate after more than 10 years of follow-up was halved in men who had increased their physical activity to a high level both from a medium and a low level.
  • Those who quit smoking had a 40% lower mortality rate after 10 years compared with current smokers. Men who had never smoked had a 60% lower mortality rate than current smokers.


  • There is a link between increased levels of physical activity and reduced mortality in middle aged men.
  • Increased physical activity prolongs life among middle aged and older men, though there might be a period of 5-10 years before an effect is seen on total mortality.
  • The reduced risk of death after increased physical activity is on par with those who quit smoking.


Editors Notes

  • Questions asked of participants included -
  1. Do you spend most of your time reading, watching TV, going to the cinema, or engaging in other, mostly sedentary activities?
  2. Do you often go walking or cycling for pleasure?
  3. Do you engage in any active recreational sports or heavy gardening at least 3 hours every week?
  4. Do you regularly engage in hard physical training or competitive sport?