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Hepatology. 2016 Mar;63(3):1026-40. doi: 10.1002/hep.28132. Epub 2015 Dec 18.

Physical activity and liver diseases.

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Hepatology, University Clinic of Visceral Surgery and Medicine, Inselspital Berne, Berne, Switzerland.
Hepatology, Department of Clinical Research, University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland.


Regular physical activity beneficially impacts the risk of onset and progression of several chronic diseases. However, research regarding the effects of exercising on chronic liver diseases is relatively recent. Most researchers focused on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), in which increasing clinical and experimental data indicate that skeletal muscle crosstalking to the adipose tissue and the liver regulates intrahepatic fat storage. In this setting, physical activity is considered to be required in combination with calories restriction to allow an effective decrease of intrahepatic lipid component, and despite that evidence is not conclusive, some studies suggest that vigorous activity might be more beneficial than moderate activity to improve NAFLD/nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Evidence regarding the effects of exercise on the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma is scarce; some epidemiological studies indicate a lower risk in patients regularly and vigorously exercising. In compensated cirrhosis, exercise acutely increases portal pressure, but in the longer term it has been proved safe and probably beneficial. Decreased aerobic capacity (VO2 ) correlates with mortality in patients with decompensated cirrhosis, who are almost invariably sarcopenic. In these patients, VO2 is improved by physical activity, which might also reduce the risk of hepatic encephalopathy through an increase in skeletal muscle mass. In solid organ transplantation recipients, exercise is able to improve lean mass, muscle strength, and, as a consequence, aerobic capacity. Few data exist in liver transplant recipients, in whom exercise should be an object of future studies given its high potential of providing long-term beneficial effects.


Despite that evidence is far from complete, physical activity should be seen as an important part of the management of patients with liver disease in order to improve their clinical outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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