Background: Physical activity recommendations state that for the same energy expenditure, moderate-to-vigorous physical activities (MVPAs) produce similar health benefits. However, few epidemiological studies have tested this hypothesis.
Design: We examined whether, compared with moderate, vigorous activity was associated with larger mortality risk reductions.
Methods: Data from 11 cohorts of the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey, collected from 1994 to 2011 (mean (SD) follow-up, 9.0 (3.6) years). Adults aged ≥30 years reported MVPA and linkage to mortality records. Exposure was the proportion of self-reported weighted MVPA through vigorous activity. Outcomes were all-cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality.
Results: Among 64 913 adult respondents (44% men, 56% women, mean (SD) age, 49.8 (13.6) years), there were 5064 deaths from all-causes, 1393 from CVD and 1602 from cancer during 435 743 person-years of follow-up. Compared with those who reported no vigorous physical activity, and holding constant the volume of weighted MVPA, vigorous activity was associated with additional reductions in mortality risk. For all-cause mortality, the adjusted HR was HR=0.84 (95% CI 0.71, 0.99) and HR=0.84 (95% CI 0.76, 0.94) among those who reported between >0% and<30%, or ≥30% of their activity as vigorous, respectively. For CVD and cancer mortality, point estimates showed similar beneficial associations yet CIs were wider and crossed unity.
Conclusion: Vigorous activities were associated with larger reductions in mortality risk than activities of moderate intensity, but no evidence of dose–response effects was found.