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IMPORTANCE: Higher physical activity levels are associated with lower risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, but associations with many common and less severe health conditions are not known. These conditions impose large health care burdens and reduce quality of life. OBJECTIVES: To investigate the association between accelerometer-measured physical activity and the subsequent risk of hospitalization for 25 common reasons for hospitalization and to estimate the proportion of these hospitalizations that might have been prevented if participants had higher levels of physical activity. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This prospective cohort study used data from a subset of 81 717 UK Biobank participants aged 42 to 78 years. Participants wore an accelerometer for 1 week (between June 1, 2013, and December 23, 2015) and were followed up over a median (IQR) of 6.8 (6.2-7.3) years; follow-up for the current study ended in 2021 (exact date varied by location). EXPOSURES: Mean total and intensity-specific accelerometer-measured physical activity. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Hospitalization for the most common health conditions. Cox proportional hazards regression analysis was used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for mean accelerometer-measured physical activity (per 1-SD increment) and risks of hospitalization for 25 conditions. Population-attributable risks were used to estimate the proportion of hospitalizations for each condition that might be prevented if participants increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) by 20 minutes per day. RESULTS: Among 81 717 participants, the mean (SD) age at accelerometer assessment was 61.5 (7.9) years; 56.4% were female, and 97.0% self-identified as White. Higher levels of accelerometer-measured physical activity were associated with lower risks of hospitalization for 9 conditions: gallbladder disease (HR per 1 SD, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.69-0.79), urinary tract infections (HR per 1 SD, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.69-0.84), diabetes (HR per 1 SD, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.74-0.84), venous thromboembolism (HR per 1 SD, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.75-0.90), pneumonia (HR per 1 SD, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.77-0.89), ischemic stroke (HR per 1 SD, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.76-0.95), iron deficiency anemia (HR per 1 SD, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84-0.98), diverticular disease (HR per 1 SD, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.90-0.99), and colon polyps (HR per 1 SD, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.94-0.99). Positive associations were observed between overall physical activity and carpal tunnel syndrome (HR per 1 SD, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.18-1.40), osteoarthritis (HR per 1 SD, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.10-1.19), and inguinal hernia (HR per 1 SD, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.07-1.19), which were primarily induced by light physical activity. Increasing MVPA by 20 minutes per day was associated with reductions in hospitalization ranging from 3.8% (95% CI, 1.8%-5.7%) for colon polyps to 23.0% (95% CI, 17.1%-28.9%) for diabetes. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort study of UK Biobank participants, those with higher physical activity levels had lower risks of hospitalization across a broad range of health conditions. These findings suggest that aiming to increase MVPA by 20 minutes per day may be a useful nonpharmaceutical intervention to reduce health care burdens and improve quality of life.

Original publication




Journal article


JAMA Netw Open

Publication Date





Humans, Adult, Female, Male, Cohort Studies, Prospective Studies, Quality of Life, Exercise, Diabetes Mellitus, Hospitalization, Accelerometry, United Kingdom