Bootcamps or five-a-side could save your liver and your life

  • Date

    Tue 28 Sep 21

A five-a-side game or one bootcamp session a week could help fend off liver disease into middle age, University of Essex-led research has revealed.

This new study shows “vigorous” exercise greatly reduces the risk of developing the increasingly common condition known as fatty liver disease while more moderate exercise, even for more than two-and-a-half hours a week, does almost nothing.

The study – published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology - found a one-hour bootcamp class of targeted cardio, a tennis match, or a 60-minute gym workout could have more benefit than riding a bike, hiking or dancing.

Professor Gavin Sandercock said: “It's common knowledge that exercise is good for the heart– this study shows that it can be good for the health of the liver.

“The link between fitness and cardiovascular health is intuitive as exercise gets the heart and lungs working – especially vigorous exercise.

“But the benefits of exercising regularly also extend to areas from the brain to the bones and, as this study suggests, a healthy liver.”

The research team included academics from Essex alongside Buckinghamshire New University and the University of Hull.

They tracked the exercise of more than 7,000 adults aged between 40-60, and found there was a lower risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in those who did just over 60 min a week of vigorous activities such as work outs, sports, or swimming.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects one-in-four European adults and there is evidence it can clog arteries, cause strokes, and lead to heart failure independent of cardiovascular disease.

It is prevented through good cardio fitness with researchers, including a team from the University of Essex's School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, discovering the chance of getting the disease was 42 per cent lower in adults who did 60 minutes of hard physical activity a week.

This is less than less than 75 min per week recommended by the Chief Medical Officer.

But there was no evidence to show it was lower in those who did moderate exercise more than the suggested 150mins.

It is more prevalent in obese men than women with many sufferers unaware they have the condition.

Out of the 7,111 adults surveyed it was found in 28.3 per cent of men and 6.5 per cent of women.

The study also found being very fit reduced the risk of fatty liver disease by more than half compared with the least fit adults and small improvements in fitness can be of large benefit.