We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. Today we have Honorary Associate Professor Ann B. Gates, CEO of @Exerciseworks who has chosen a paper discussing the benefits of leisure-time physical activity…..a message of hope-for all-across the lifespan.

Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA) Across the Adult Life Course With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality

Pedro F. Saint-Maurice, Diarmuid Coughlan, Scott P.Kelly et al

JAMA Network Open


Why this paper?

This paper gives strategic hope when physical inactivity is still a national and global health problem. It’s finding’s state: “Increasing LTPA later in adulthood was associated with mortality benefits that were similar to those associated with maintaining higher levels of LTPA across the adult life course. Our findings suggest that it is not too late for adults to become active. These findings are particularly informative for health care professionals advising individuals who have been physically inactive throughout much of their adulthood that substantial health benefits can still be gained by improving their physical activity habits”.

These findings are consistent with previous studies demonstrating that increasing activity in midlife is associated with health benefits for all-cause mortality.

In terms of the data for cancer the results show that for Cancer-Related Mortality: maintaining moderate to high amounts of LTPA was associated with lower cancer-related mortality. For example, maintaining at least 2 to 7 hours per week resulted in 14% lower risk when compared with participants who were consistently inactive throughout adulthood (eg, trajectory 10: HR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.77-0.97). Maintaining some LTPA (ie, 1 hour/wk throughout adult life course) was associated with similar risk for cancer-related mortality (trajectory 5: HR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.88-1.04).

Increasing LTPA during adulthood was associated with lower cancer-related mortality. Participants increasing LTPA in later adulthood (40-61 years of age) had a 16% lower risk when compared with the referent group (trajectory 2: HR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.77-0.92). There were no significant differences in risk for cancer-related mortality between participants who were consistently inactive (referent group) and those who decreased LTPA across the adult life course.

As with many physical activity studies this study is not without limitations and these are presented in the discussion section: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2727269

The take home message may be reassuring, and fits with the latest UK CMO physical activity guidance across the ages: it’s never too late to start to #BeActive, some is good more is better, and that leisure time physical activity counts too!