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More intense physical exercise increases longevity

Publicado em 16 março 2021

A regular practice of physical activity it is already more than established as an effective way to guarantee quality of life and reduce mortality. A recent study published in the journal “JAMA Internal Medicine”Showed, however, that not only regularity, but also the intensity of physical activity, result in greater longevity.

The conclusion is from a study based on data from 403,681 people, in which the reduction in mortality associated with different combinations of exercises of moderate and vigorous intensity was compared within the time recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), from 150 to 300 minutes a week.

“Any type of regular physical activity is better than nothing. However, what we saw in our study was that including vigorous exercise – such as football and running, for example – in weekly practice is associated with reduced mortality. In comparison with adults who performed only moderate activities, those who do half or 75% of vigorous activity in the total week had a 17% reduction in mortality in general, which includes mortality from cardiovascular disease and cancer among different causes ”, says Leandro Rezende, professor at the Department of Preventive Medicine at Escola Paulista de Medicina, Federal University of São Paulo (EPM-Unifesp), who coordinated the study.

Moderate or vigorous activity?

Rezende, who was a Fapesp fellow in doctoral and postdoctoral research, has carried out analyzes based on population data to identify associations between physical activity, nutrition and the reduction of chronic diseases, especially cancer, as well as studies on the impact of public interventions and policies aimed at healthy eating and promotion of physical activity in the reduction of diseases and health expenses.

In this article published in “JAMA”, he had the collaboration of researchers from the University of Wuhan (China), University of Santiago de Chile (Chile) and the European University Miguel de Cervantes (Spain). Rezende used population data from The National Health Interview Survey, conducted in the United States, which monitors 403,681 people annually with questionnaires and analyzes on the practice of physical activity and related to health.

“With the analysis we were able to answer an old question: what is better, moderate or vigorous activity? We show that both are important, but that giving more intensity to regular physical activity further reduces mortality. The study’s result reinforces the WHO recommendation of at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of activity intensities, ”he says.

Greater magnitude

The intensity of a physical activity is measured by the unit of metabolic equivalent, or the amount of energy expenditure – which is produced per kilogram of weight per minute. Moderate activities, such as light walking, cycling or domestic activities that involve energy expenditure, vary from 3 to 6 units of metabolic equivalent. Swimming, dancing, cycling at a higher speed, running, and playing sports such as football, handball and boxing are vigorous activities, corresponding to more than 7 units of metabolic equivalent.

“First, we compared adults who did not practice physical activity with those who practiced some physical activity during the week, regardless of the intensity. With that, we saw that adults who practiced some physical activity, in spite of age and other factors, had lower mortality [comparado com quem nunca deixou de ser sedentário]. It doesn’t matter if the activity is moderate or vigorous. However, the magnitude of this reduction in mortality is greater for vigorous activity than for moderate activities. These results corroborate the latest WHO recommendations for physical activity, ”he says.

In the analysis of those who performed at least some physical activity during the week, the researchers calculated the percentage of vigorous and moderate exercises in weekly practice.

Adjustment of factors

“An individual who does 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity performs the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate activity in the percentage of participation in vigorous activity in the total weekly physical activity”, explains Rezende.

In order to “calibrate” the data of a large number of individuals with different backgrounds, the researchers needed to include other factors that could interfere with the final result, thus avoiding “biases”. “It was necessary to adjust the analysis with what we call confounding variables, which could interfere with the result of a study related to longevity, which monitors these people for years. With that, we need to adjust factors such as smoking, diseases existing at the beginning of the study, alcohol consumption and other variables that could explain these associations ”, he says.

The article Association of Physical Activity Intensity With Mortality A National Cohort Study of 403â?¯681 US Adults (doi: 10.1001 / jamainternmed.2020.6331), by Yafeng Wang, Jing Nie, Gerson Ferrari, Juan Pablo Rey-Lopez, Leandro FM Rezende, can be read at

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