Relationship between the mortality rate and the level of physical activity (Denmark)

By News Editor / Updated: 06 May 2015

A study of the relationship between the all-cause mortality rate and the level of physical activity among people of different age groups and sexes. The project covered 30 000 people and was carrying out for 14.5 years. It involved health-related organizations in Denmark.

Background & Objectives

It has been observed that people who lead more physically active life live longer than those who do not. This rather obvious statement was the starting point for the Copenhagen project.

The aim of the project was to survey 13 000 women and 17 000 men aged between 20 and 93 about their physical activity. To handle this the project involved Danish Medical Research Council and the Danish Heart Foundation and was carried out on randomly selected participants at Copenhagen University Hospital.

The project objective was to reassure that an average of 3 hours of physical activity, especially cycling to work, revealed additional benefit to stay in good health.


During the project which lasted 14.5 years 30 000 respondents from Copenhagen University Hospital of whom 8 500 died were asked four question of how much they were physically active at work, in their leisure time, they cycled to work and participated in sport.

General physical activity and physical activity at work were categorized from 1 to 4 (presenting the lowest and the highest level of physical activity). Sport participation and cycling to work were answered yes or no.

The answers were then compared to the observed levels of mortality irrespective of the cause of death and adjusted to the accounts of lifestyle.

During the survey about 7 000 people answered the question whether they cycled to work (i. e. an average of 3 hours per week). About 2 300 of them died during the study.

After that the impact of physical activity on the mortality rate was measured.


After the study it was found that physically active people had a lower mortality rate than those who did not lead an active lifestyle and the benefit did not depend on sex and age group.

Among people who were at least moderately active, those who did sport had a 50% lower mortality rate. And, those who did not cycle to work had 39% higher mortality rate than those who did not.

For more information, see a full copy of the 2008 study (in English) below.

Walking and cycling
Lars Bo Andersen
Lars Bo Andersen
06 Aug 2009
06 May 2015