HealthDay News — The risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is not associated with physical activity levels five to 55 years before diagnosis, although occupational physical activity appears to be associated with an increased risk, according to a study published online Oct. 20 in Neurology.

Angela Rosenbohm, M.D., from Ulm University in Germany, and colleagues examined the role of physical activity as a potential risk factor for ALS and as a prognostic factor in the disease course. Lifetime work and leisure-time physical activity values were collected by questionnaires. The odds ratios of ALS were calculated in a population-based case-control study with 393 ALS cases and 791 age- and sex-matched controls.

The researchers found that compared with controls, ALS cases had reduced total physical activity at interview time and up to five years before the interview. There was no association for total physical activity with ALS risk five to 55 years before the interview. There was an association observed for heavy occupational work intensity with increased ALS risk (odds ratio, 1.97). A nonlinear association was seen for total physical activity levels with survival: Inactive patients and those with the highest activity levels (25 metabolic equivalent hours/week) had the worst survival time (15.4 and 19.3 months, respectively). After adjustment for other prognostic factors, the best median survival of 29.8 months was seen at 10.5 metabolic equivalent hours/week.


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“While we did find that higher activity levels may negatively affect survival rates in people newly diagnosed with ALS, so may getting no activity at all,” Rosenbohm said in a statement. “The message here is that moderate exercise is still best, even after symptoms of the disease begin.”

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