Physical activity and risk of venous thromboembolism: systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

Setor K Kunutsor, Timo H. Mäkikallio, Samuel Seidu, Claudio Gil Soares Araújo , Richard Dey, Ashley W Blom, Jari Antero Laukkanen

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The inverse association between physical activity and arterial thrombotic disease is well established. Evidence on the association between physical activity and venous thromboembolism (VTE) is divergent. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of published observational prospective cohort studies evaluating the associations of physical activity with VTE risk. MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, and manual search of relevant bibliographies were systematically searched until 26 February 2019. Extracted relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the maximum versus minimal amount of physical activity groups were pooled using random effects meta-analysis. Twelve articles based on 14 unique prospective cohort studies comprising of 1,286,295 participants and 23,753 VTE events were eligible. The pooled fully-adjusted RR (95% CI) of VTE comparing the most physically active versus the least physically active groups was 0.87 (0.79-0.95). In pooled analysis of 10 studies (288,043 participants and 7,069 VTE events) that reported risk estimates not adjusted for body mass index (BMI), the RR (95% CI) of VTE was 0.81 (0.70-0.93). The associations did not vary by geographical location, age, sex, BMI, and methodological quality of studies. There was no evidence of publication bias among contributing studies. Pooled observational prospective cohort studies support an association between regular physical activity and low incidence of VTE. The relationship does not appear to be mediated or confounded by BMI.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Nov 2019


  • physical activity
  • venous thromboembolism
  • cohort study
  • risk factor
  • systematic review
  • meta-analysis

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