Moderate exercise in middle and older age cuts time spent in hospital

  A couple cycling  Credit: MabelAmber

Men and women aged 40–79 are at significantly lower (25–27%) risk of long or frequent hospital admissions if they do some form of physical activity, a new study suggests.

Inactive participants in the study spent just over four days more in hospital over the next ten years than those who did at least some physical activity, whether for work or leisure. And similar results were observed ten years later when the same participants were 50–90 years old.

The study, by researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Public Health and Primary Care and MRC Epidemiology Unit, calculates that for every inactive person who started to take at least some exercise, the NHS could save around £247 per year. This would equate to around 7% of the UK’s per capita health expenditure.

The findings, published in BMC Geriatrics, are based on a general British population cohort study of 25,639 men and women aged 40–79 living in Norfolk and recruited from general practices between 1993 and 1997 (The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer in Norfolk).

The researchers found that in the first ten years active participants were 25–27% less likely than inactive participants to have more than twenty hospital days or more than seven admissions per year with similar results over the subsequent ten years. They also reported that in 9,827 study participants with repeated measurements, those who remained physically active or increased their activity were 34% less likely to spend twenty days in hospital.

Lead author Robert Luben from the Institute of Public Health says: “Our study provides some of the clearest evidence yet that small, feasible increases in usual physical activity substantially reduce the future hospital usage of middle-aged and older people, and would significantly ease pressure on the NHS.”

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Image:  A couple cycling

Credit: MabelAmber

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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