The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, examined data from over 90 000 adults and was the first to use accelerometry, a more objective method of measuring physical activity and sleep duration.
The study found that in individuals who had low levels of physical activity, both short and long sleep durations were associated with increased risks of all-cause death. However, in those with intermediate or high levels of physical activity, only short sleep duration was detrimental to lifespan. For cardiovascular death, short sleepers with low physical activity had an increased risk, which disappeared with moderate or high levels of exercise. Similarly, for cancer death, long sleepers with low physical activity had an increased risk, which disappeared with moderate or high levels of exercise. Similar results were found for moderate to vigorous physical activity. Additionally, meeting the World Health Organization's recommendations for physical activity offset the increased risks associated with short or long sleep duration.
The study suggests that promoting both regular physical activity and optimal sleep duration may be more effective in preventing premature death in middle-aged and older adults than focusing on either behavior alone. The findings highlight the importance of addressing both physical activity and sleep duration in health promotion efforts to improve overall health and extend lifespan.