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News

Physical activity and risk of inflammatory bowel disease

A prospective study from the Nurses’ Health Study cohorts reported in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal investigates the association between physical activity and risk of inflammatory bowel disease.

News image

Dr Chan and colleagues examined the association between physical activity and risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

The team performed a prospective cohort study of the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II.

There were 194,711 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II who provided data on physical activity and other risk factors every 2 to 4 years since 1984 in the Nurses’ Health Study, and 1989 in the Nurses’ Health Study II and followed up through 2010.

The research team's main outcome measure was incident ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

During 3,421,972 person years of follow-up, the team documented 284 cases of Crohn’s disease and 363 cases of ulcerative colitis.

The risk of Crohn’s disease was inversely associated with physical activity.

Compared with women in the lowest fifth of physical activity, the multivariate adjusted hazard ratio of Crohn’s disease among women in the highest fifth of physical activity was 0.6.

The team noted that active women with at least 27 metabolic equivalent task (MET) hours per week of physical activity had a 44% reduction in risk of developing Crohn’s disease compared with sedentary women with less than 3 MET h/wk.

The researchers observed that physical activity was not associated with risk of ulcerative colitis.

The absolute risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease among women in the highest fifth of physical activity was 8 and 6 events per 100,000 person years compared with 11 and 16 events per 100,000 person years among women in the lowest fifth of physical activity, respectively.

The team noted that age, smoking, body mass index, and cohort did not significantly modify the association between physical activity and risk of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Dr Chan's team concludes, "In two large prospective cohorts of US women, physical activity was inversely associated with risk of Crohn’s disease but not of ulcerative colitis."

BMJ 2013; 347:f6633
09 December 2013

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