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Physical activity: the health benefits outweigh the risks

Melzer, Katarina; Kayser, Bengt; Pichard, Claude

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: November 2004 - Volume 7 - Issue 6 - p 641-647
Nutrition and physiological function

Purpose of review This article will summarize the current findings on the effects of physical activity on human health and well-being.

Recent findings Physical activity is associated with enhanced health and reduced risk of all-cause mortality such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, cognitive disorders, and some forms of cancer. Nevertheless, the effects of exercise with respect to potential health consequences are complex. When untrained or previously sedentary persons undertake vigorous exertion suddenly, the undesired side effects of injuries, dehydration or cardiac arrest are amplified.

Summary It is reasonable to conclude that the risk exposure through physical activity is outweighed by its overall benefits, and health authorities strongly encourage participation in moderate intensity physical activity on a daily basis. In the future, the identification and characterization of particularly inactive sub-groups of the population may facilitate and optimize the planning of public health interventions.

Division of Clinical Nutrition, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence to Claude Pichard, MD, PhD, Head Clinical Nutrition, Geneva University Hospital, 24 Micheli-du-Crest, 1211 Geneva 14, Switzerland Tel: +41 22 372 93 49; fax: +41 22 372 93 63; e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.