Aging Autumn 2021

Exercise and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A statistical analysis of potential associations between physical activity, sedentary time, and diagnoses of obstructive sleep apnea has found that more active, less sedentary lifestyles lower the risk of the condition.

The study, conducted by HMS researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, drew upon data from approximately 130,000 women and men who participated in longitudinal studies known as the Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professional Follow-up Study. Participants were followed for 10 to 18 years.

The associations were strongest in women, adults over the age of 65, and adults who, according to body mass index measures, were identified as having overweight or obesity.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea in which some muscles relax during sleep, resulting in an airflow blockage. People with severe forms of the condition are at increased risk for various heart problems, including abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure.

The study is the first prospective work that simultaneously evaluates physical activity and sedentary behavior in relation to the risk for obstructive sleep apnea. The investigators encourage physicians to consider the findings and to highlight the benefits of physical activity to lower the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in their patients.

Liu Y et al., European Respiratory Journal, July 2021

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