Physical activity for the prevention and treatment of major chronic disease: An overview of systematic reviews

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The problem

The evidence that higher levels of physical activity and/or lower levels of physical inactivity are associated with beneficial health related outcomes stem mainly from observational studies. Findings from these studies often differ from randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews currently demonstrate mixed results; due partly to heterogeneity in physical activity interventions, methodologies used and populations studied. As a result, translation into clinical practice has been difficult. It is therefore essential that an overview is carried out of existing evidence to compare and contrast which are the most effective in preventing and/or treating major chronic disease.

The approach

We will search the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials that have a primary focus on disease related outcome. We will restrict reviews to those in selected major chronic diseases. Two authors will independently screen search outputs, select studies, extract data and assess quality of included reviews using the assessment of multiple systematic reviews tool; resolving all discrepancies by discussion and consensus with a third author. The data extraction form will summarize key information from each review, including details of the population(s) (e.g. disease condition), the context (e.g. prevention, treatment or management), the participants, the intervention(s), the comparison(s) and the outcomes.


The primary outcomes of interest are prevention of chronic disease and/or improved outcome, treatment or management of chronic disease. These outcomes will be summarised and presented for individual chronic diseases (e.g., the change in blood pressure in hypertension or glucose control in diabetes). Secondary outcomes of interest are to describe the structure and delivery physical activity interventions across chronic disease conditions and adverse events associated with physical activity.


We anticipate that our results will provide the most up-to-date data on the efficacy of physical activity for preventing and treating chronic disease and will be used to underpin worldwide guidelines, policy-makers and clinical implementation of physical activity interventions.


  • David Nunan
  • Kamal R Mahtani
  • Igho Onakpoya
  • Ayo Aajanaku
  • Nia Roberts
  • Carl Heneghan