- Physical activity, including walking and muscle-strengthening activities, were associated with significantly reduced risk of cirrhosis-related death, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2019. Chronic liver disease is increasing, partly due to the obesity epidemic, and currently there are no guidelines for the optimal type of exercise for the prevention of cirrhosis-related mortality. Researchers hope these findings will help provide specific exercise recommendations for patients at risk for cirrhosis and its complications.
"The benefit of exercise is not a new concept, but the impact of
exercise on mortality from cirrhosis and from liver cancer has not yet
been explored on this scale," said Tracey Simon, MD, lead researcher on
the study and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. "Our findings show that both
walking and strength training contribute to substantial reductions in
risk of cirrhosis-related death, which is significant because we know
very little about modifiable risk factors."
Dr. Simon and her team prospectively followed 68,449 women from the
Nurses' Health Study and 48,748 men from the Health Professionals
Follow-up Study, without known liver disease at baseline. Participants
provided highly accurate data on physical activity, including type and
intensity, every two years from 1986 through 2012, which allowed
researchers to prospectively examine the association between physical
activity and cirrhosis-related death.
Researchers observed that adults in the highest quintile of weekly
walking activity had 73 percent lower risk for cirrhosis-related death
than those in the lowest quintile. Further risk reduction was observed
with combined walking and muscle-strengthening exercises.
Previous research has been limited to studies that assessed physical
activity at just one point in time, or studies with very short-term
follow-up. This was the first prospective study in a large U.S.
population to include detailed and updated measurements of physical
activity over such a prolonged period, which allowed researchers to more
precisely estimate the relationship between physical activity and
"In the U.S., mortality due to cirrhosis is increasing dramatically,
with rates expected to triple by the year 2030. In the face of this
alarming trend, information on modifiable risk factors that might
prevent liver disease is needed," said Dr. Simon. "Our findings support
further research to define the optimal type and intensity of physical
activity to prevent adverse outcomes in patients at risk for cirrhosis."