Currently, the most effective treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is diet and exercise. Weight loss of 5% achieved through lifestyle interventions has been associated with the reversal of steatosis, and a 10% weight reduction has been linked to the reversal of fibrosis. Physical activity (PA) has been hypothesised to reduce the accumulation of intrahepatic triglycerides contributing to NAFLD progression. However, the exact mechanism behind PA’s role in the management of NAFLD remains unknown, and the effects of vigorous PA among adults with NAFLD has not yet been measured.
The aim of this study was to examine the association between the proportion and intensity of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) and all-cause mortality among adults with NAFLD in the United States.
Compared to those who did not report any LTPA, adults with NAFLD who reported ≥50% of their total PA as vigorous were found to possess a 56% reduction in all-cause and cancer-specific mortality risk. However, vigorous LTPA did not significantly reduce cardiac-specific mortality risk.
Interestingly, the association between vigorous PA, all-cause, and cancer-specific mortality remained significant even for adults with NAFLD and metabolic abnormalities. Adults with NAFLD who met the recommended minimal PA and who reported any LTPA were also found to possess reduced all-cause and cancer-specific mortality risk.
These findings highlight the importance of vigorous PA for all adults with NAFLD, and especially for those with comorbid metabolic abnormalities.