Health Benefits of Light-Intensity Physical Activity: A Systematic Review of Accelerometer Data of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Abstract

Background

The health effects of light-intensity physical activity (PA) are not well known today.

Objective

We conducted a systematic review to assess the association of accelerometer-measured light-intensity PA with modifiable health outcomes in adults and older adults.

Methods

A systematic literature search up to March 2016 was performed in the PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science and Google Scholar electronic databases, without language limitations, for studies of modifiable health outcomes in adults and older adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey accelerometer dataset.

Results

Overall, 37 cross-sectional studies and three longitudinal studies were included in the analysis, with considerable variation observed between the studies with regard to their operationalization of light-intensity PA. Light-intensity PA was found to be beneficially associated with obesity, markers of lipid and glucose metabolism, and mortality. Few data were available on musculoskeletal outcomes and results were mixed.

Conclusions

Observational evidence that light-intensity PA can confer health benefits is accumulating. Currently inactive or insufficiently active people should be encouraged to engage in PA of any intensity. If longitudinal and intervention studies corroborate our findings, the revision of PA recommendations to include light-intensity activities, at least for currently inactive populations, might be warranted.

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Correspondence to Eszter Füzéki.

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Eszter Füzéki, Tobias Engeroff and Winfried Banzer declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Füzéki, E., Engeroff, T. & Banzer, W. Health Benefits of Light-Intensity Physical Activity: A Systematic Review of Accelerometer Data of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Sports Med 47, 1769–1793 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0724-0

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Keywords

  • Physical Activity
  • Bone Mineral Density
  • Waist Circumference
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Moderate Quality