Physical activity to prevent and treat non-communicable chronic diseases and functional disability

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Physical activity can be effective on primary, secondary and tertiary health care. The aims of this article are to analyze the association between physical activity and prevention or treatment of non-communicable chronic diseases and functional disability and to review the main biological mechanisms responsible for this association and the current recommendations for the practice of physical exercises in these contexts. Many epidemiological studies show a connection between increased levels of physical activity and decreased general death rates and deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases in adult and elderly individuals. Although the mechanisms that relate physical activity to the prevention and treatment of diseases and functional disability are not completely understood, they mainly involve reduction of body fat, decrease in blood pressure, improvement of the lipid profile and insulin sensitivity and an increase in energy expenditure, muscle mass and strength, cardiopulmonary capacity, flexibility and balance. However, the amount and quality of exercises necessary to prevent damages to health may be different from those necessary to improve physical conditioning. Generally speaking, the consensus for the practice of preventive or therapeutic exercises involves aerobic activities and resistance training, preferably in addition to the daily physical activities. Particularly among adult and elderly individuals who have other diseases or disabilities that affect their ability to exercise, the consensual recommendation is to include exercises that improve flexibility and balance, in addition to the abovementioned activities.




Coelho, C. de F., & Burini, R. C. (2009). Physical activity to prevent and treat non-communicable chronic diseases and functional disability. Revista de Nutricao, 22(6), 937–946.

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