High Physical Activity Levels May Counter Serious Health Har
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Both physical inactivity and poor sleep are independently associated with a heightened risk of death and/or cardiovascular disease and cancer. But it's not clear if they might exert a combined effect on health. The researchers drew on information provided by 380,055 middle-aged men and women taking part in the UK Biobank study.

The UK Biobank is tracking the long term health of more than half a million 37-73 year olds, who were recruited from across the UK between 2006 and 2010. Participants supplied information on their normal weekly physical activity levels, which were measured in Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes.

Physical activity levels were categorised as: high (1200 or more MET minutes/week); medium (600 to less than 1200); or low (1 to less than 600); and no moderate to vigorous physical activity. Sleep quality was categorised using a 0-5 sleep score derived from chronotype ('night owl' or 'morning lark' preference), sleep duration, insomnia, snoring and daytime sleepiness: healthy (4+); intermediate (2-3); or poor (0-1).

Participants' health was then tracked for an average of 11 years up to May 2020 or death, whichever came first, to assess their risk of dying from any cause as well as from all types of cardiovascular disease; coronary heart disease; stroke; all types of cancer; and lung cancer. During the monitoring period, 15,503 died: 4095 were from any type of cardiovascular disease and 9064 were from all types of cancer.

Of these, 1932 people died from coronary heart disease, 359 from a brain bleed (haemorrhagic) stroke, 450 from a blood clot (ischaemic) stroke and 1595 from lung cancer. Some 223,445 (59%) participants were in the high physical activity group; 57,771 (15%) in the medium group; 39,298 (10%) in the low group; and 59, 541 (16%) in the no moderate to vigorous physical activity group.

More than half (56%) the participants had a healthy sleep pattern; 42% were classified as having intermediate quality sleep; and 3% were classified as poor sleepers. Those who were younger, female, thinner, better off financially, ate more fruit and vegetables, spent less of their day seated, had no mental health issues, never smoked, didn't work shifts, drank less alcohol and were more physically active tended to have healthier sleep scores.

The lower the sleep score, the higher were the risks of death from any cause, from all types of cardiovascular disease, and from ischaemic stroke. Nevertheless, the researchers conclude: "Physical activity levels at or above the WHO guideline (600 metabolic equivalent task mins/week) threshold eliminated most of the deleterious associations of poor sleep with mortality."

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