Exercise may decrease risk of liver disease

Walking and strength training reduce the risk of dying from liver disease, study finds.

Research presented at the world’s largest gastroenterology conference has found that exercise and weight training may reduce the risk of liver disease.

The way exercise impacts liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, had not previously been examined at this level.

“The benefit of exercise is not a new concept, but the impact of exercise on mortality from cirrhosis and from liver cancer has not yet been explored on this scale,’ said lead researcher Dr. Tracey Simon.

“Our findings show that both walking and strength training contribute to substantial reductions in risk of cirrhosis-related death, which is significant because we know very little about modifiable risk factors.”


The study, presented at Digestive Disease Week 2019, was based on a longitudinal study covering 26 years with more than 170,000 people.

The participants provided accurate and detailed data on their physical activity every two years between 1986 and 2012. Researchers tracked their progress and looked at the association between the physical activity and cirrhosis-related death.

What the results showed was that the more physical activity a person did, the lower their risk for cirrhosis-related death.

For example, adults in the highest bracket for walking had 73 percent lower risk than those in the lowest bracket.

In addition, combining walking with strength training reduced the risk even further.

These results make sense. A big risk factor for liver disease is obesity, which can elevate liver enzymes. Obesity is also linked to insulin resistance, which is associated with cirrhosis.

Interestingly, participants saw benefits across all BMI levels. Dr. Simon believes the results aren’t related to body weight as much as other factors linked with obesity.

“In the U.S., mortality due to cirrhosis is increasing dramatically, with rates expected to triple by the year 2030,” said Dr. Simon.

“Our findings support further research to define the optimal type and intensity of physical activity to prevent adverse outcomes in patients at risk for cirrhosis.”


Simon, T. (2019.) ‘Physical activity, including walking and strength training, are associated with reduced risk of cirrhosis-related mortality: results from two prospective cohorts of U.S. men and women,’ abstract 310.

Presented on Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Digestive Disease Week 2019. http://www.ddw.org.

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