Association between physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors: Dose and sex matter

Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2021


The study investigates the connection between physical activity levels, cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, and sex, using data from a Spanish cohort of working adults over a five-year period.

The results conform with past studies that even minimal physical activity lesser than World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines can reduce CVD risk. 

The study confirms high levels of inactivity within the adult population, stressing the need for national physical activity promotion given the advantageous effects of even ‘insufficient’ activity levels. While some conflicting information exists about the influence of sex on the physical activity-CVD risk relationship, the study finds physical activity beneficial in reducing CVD risk prevalence for both sexes. 

However, increased physical activity levels were significantly linked to lower obesity prevalence in men but not in women, suggesting potential sex-specific impacts on the correlation between physical activity, obesity risk, and metabolic health. Despite its cross-sectional nature, the study underlines the association of physical activity, especially above the WHO-recommended minimum levels, with lower prevalence of major CVD risk factors in working adults.

The study refutes the 'fat but fit' paradox, stressing the importance of weight loss in combination with physical activity to alleviate risks of cardiovascular diseases.

Where does it apply?

It can inform public health policy decisions, guiding the development of strategies emphasizing the importance of physical activity for cardiovascular health. 

In the healthcare industry, clinicians can base their health advice on these findings. Fitness professionals can use this research to create gender-specific fitness programs. It opens avenues for further investigation in research institutions regarding the gender-specific impacts of physical activity. 

Lastly, it can guide the design of corporate wellness programs to foster healthy habits among employees, reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

Why does it matters?

This study’s insights matter because they highlight the significant health benefits of physical activity in mitigating major cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, emphasizing that even lower than recommended levels can still have positive effects. This understanding is crucial for public health promotion efforts and for individuals in making lifestyle decisions. 

The research also uncovers important gender-related differences in how physical activity impacts obesity rates, suggesting that tailored approaches may be needed for addressing obesity in men and women. This better understanding of the interaction between physical activity, sex, and CVD risk factors can inform preventive healthcare strategies and interventions, potentially leading to improved overall public health outcomes.

Association between physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors: Dose and sex matter

Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2021

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