Engaging in or exceeding the weekly recommended amount of physical activity (PA) may offset serious health risks associated with poor sleep quality, including death, new research suggests.
Investigators analyzed data on close to 400,000 middle-aged adults and found that over an 11-year period, those with poor sleep together with low levels of PA had 57% higher risk for all-cause mortality, a 67% higher risk for death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), a 45% higher risk for death from any type of cancer, and a 91% higher risk for death from lung cancer in comparison with their counterparts with good sleep and high PA levels.
“Our study found that PA amplified the premature mortality risks of poor sleep in a synergistic way, and conversely, meeting PA recommendations countered most of the risks of poor sleep,” study investigator Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, professor, Charles Perkins Center, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, told Medscape Medical News.
The study was published online June 29 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Physical activity and sleep are both critical for good health, but at a global level, many individuals don’t get the necessary levels of either, which causes huge disease burden and compromised quality of life, Stamatakis said.
PA and sleep each independently affect health outcomes. It is also possible that they “influence health conditions through related pathways.” However, “we know very little about the combined effects of these two key aspects of our lifestyle,” the authors note.
To investigate possible “combined effects,” the researchers used data from participants in the UK Biobank, a prospective cohort of over 500,000 adults who were recruited between 2006 and 2010, as well as mortality information from national datasets.
Participants’ normal weekly PA levels were measured in metabolic equivalent of task minutes (MET-min) , which are roughly equivalent to the amount of energy expended per minute of physical activity, according to Stamatakis.
PA was categorized as low (0 to <600 MET-min/wk), medium (600 to <1200 MET-min/wk), or high (≥1200 MET-min/wk). The