Review of the epidemiological evidence for physical activity and health from low- and middle-income countries

Karen Milton, Rona Macniven, Adrian Bauman

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63 Citations (Scopus)


Almost 80% of deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) occur in low- and middle-income countries. Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for NCDs. Enhancing understanding of the scientific evidence linking physical activity and health in low- and middle-income countries is important for supporting national efforts to promote physical activity and reduce NCDs in these countries. A systematic review of three electronic databases was conducted in July 2013, including large population-based epidemiological studies with adult participants, conducted in low- and middle-income countries, and published in the past 30 years. Physical activity was consistently associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and several types of cancer. Positive associations were also found between physical activity and body composition (including overweight and obesity), blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolic indices and bone mineral density. Overall, the results confirm that the epidemiological research into the health benefits of physical activity in low- and middle-income countries is consistent with previous research conducted in high-income countries. This summary of the available research can be used as an advocacy tool in low- and middle-income countries to support greater prominence of physical activity in NCD policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-381
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number4
Early online date3 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • epidemiology
  • physical activity
  • non-communicable disease
  • low- and middle-income countries

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