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ISRN Cardiology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 718789, 14 pages
Review Article

Physical Activity, Health Benefits, and Mortality Risk

1Cardiology Department, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 50 Irving Street NW, Washington, DC 20422, USA
2Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Georgetown University, 4000 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20057-2197, USA
3Physical Therapy and Health Care Services, George Washington University, 2121 I Street, Washington, DC 20052, USA

Received 5 August 2012; Accepted 7 September 2012

Academic Editors: H.-K. Kim and J. N. Myers

Copyright © 2012 Peter Kokkinos. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A plethora of epidemiologic evidence from large studies supports unequivocally an inverse, independent, and graded association between volume of physical activity, health, and cardiovascular and overall mortality. This association is evident in apparently healthy individuals, patients with hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease, regardless of body weight. Moreover, the degree of risk associated with physical inactivity is similar to, and in some cases even stronger than, the more traditional cardiovascular risk factors. The exercise-induced health benefits are in part related to favorable modulations of cardiovascular risk factors observed by increased physical activity or structured exercise programs. Although the independent contribution of the exercise components, intensity, duration, and frequency to the reduction of mortality risk is not clear, it is well accepted that an exercise volume threshold defined at caloric expenditure of approximately 1,000 Kcal per week appears to be necessary for significant reduction in mortality risk. Further reductions in risk are observed with higher volumes of energy expenditure. Physical exertion is also associated with a relatively low and transient increase in risk for cardiac events. This risk is significantly higher for older and sedentary individuals. Therefore, such individuals should consult their physician prior to engaging in exercise.