Leisure-time physical activity and mortality from influenza and pneumonia: a cohort study of 577 909 US adults

Bryant J. Webber*, Heather C. Yun, Geoffrey P. Whitfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective To examine the association of leisure-time physical activity with mortality from influenza and pneumonia. Methods A nationally representative sample of US adults (aged ≥18 years) who participated in the National Health Interview Survey from 1998 to 2018 were followed for mortality through 2019. Participants were classified as meeting both physical activity guidelines if they reported ≥150 min/week of moderate-intensity equivalent aerobic physical activity and ≥2 episodes/ week of muscle-strengthening activity. Participants were also classified into five volume-based categories of self-reported aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. Influenza and pneumonia mortality was defined as having an underlying cause of death with an International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision code of J09–J18 recorded in the National Death Index. Mortality risk was assessed using Cox proportional hazards, adjusting for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, health conditions and influenza and pneumococcal vaccination status. Data were analysed in 2022. Results Among 577 909 participants followed for a median of 9.23 years, 1516 influenza and pneumonia deaths were recorded. Compared with participants meeting neither guideline, those meeting both guidelines had 48% lower adjusted risk of influenza and pneumonia mortality. Relative to no aerobic activity, 10–149, 150–300, 301–600 and >600 min/week were associated with lower risk (by 21%, 41%, 50% and 41%). Relative to <2 episodes/week of muscle-strengthening activity, 2 episodes/week was associated with 47% lower risk and ≥7 episodes/week with 41% higher risk. Conclusions Aerobic physical activity, even at quantities below the recommended level, may be associated with lower influenza and pneumonia mortality while muscle-strengthening activity demonstrated a J-shaped relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1237
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


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