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Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews

Warburton, Darren E.R.; Bredin, Shannon S.D.

doi: 10.1097/HCO.0000000000000437
PREVENTION: Edited by Andrew L. Pipe
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Purpose of review The health benefits of physical activity and exercise are clear; virtually everyone can benefit from becoming more physically active. Most international guidelines recommend a goal of 150 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Many agencies have translated these recommendations to indicate that this volume of activity is the minimum required for health benefits. However, recent evidence has challenged this threshold-centered messaging as it may not be evidence-based and may create an unnecessary barrier to those who might benefit greatly from simply becoming more active. This systematic review evaluates recent systematic reviews that have examined the relationship between physical activity and health status.

Recent findings Systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses (based largely on epidemiological studies consisting of large cohorts) have demonstrated a dose–response relationship between physical activity and premature mortality and the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic medical conditions. The relationships between physical activity and health outcomes are generally curvilinear such that marked health benefits are observed with relatively minor volumes of physical activity.

Summary These findings challenge current threshold-based messaging related to physical activity and health. They emphasize that clinically relevant health benefits can be accrued by simply becoming more physically active.

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Physical Activity Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Unit, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Correspondence to Darren E.R. Warburton, University of British Columbia, 2259 Lower Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z4, Canada. Tel.: 604 822 4603;. e-mail:

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