Physical activity is inversely associated with hepatic fibro-inflammation: A population-based cohort study using UK Biobank data

Aron P. Sherry, Scott A. Willis, Thomas Yates, William Johnson, Cameron Razieh, Jack A. Sargeant, Sundus Malaikah, David J. Stensel, Guruprasad P. Aithal*, James A. King

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background & Aims: Physical activity (PA) is recommended in the management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) given its beneficial effects on liver fat and cardiometabolic risk. Using data from the UK Biobank population-cohort, this study examined associations between habitual PA and hepatic fibro-inflammation. Methods: A total of 840 men and women aged 55-70 years were included in this cross-sectional study. Hepatic fibro-inflammation (iron-corrected T1 [cT1]) and liver fat were measured using MRI, whilst body fat was measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. PA was measured using accelerometry. Generalised linear models examined associations between PA (light [LPA], moderate [MPA], vigorous [VPA], moderate-to-vigorous [MVPA] and mean acceleration) and hepatic cT1. Models were fitted for the whole sample and separately for upper and lower median groups for body and liver fat. Models were adjusted for sociodemographic and lifestyle variables. Results: In the full sample, LPA (-0.08 ms [-0.12 to -0.03]), MPA, (-0.13 ms [-0.21 to -0.05]), VPA (-1.16 ms [-1.81 to -0.51]), MVPA (-0.14 ms [-0.21 to -0.06]) and mean acceleration (-0.67 ms [-1.05 to-0.28]) were inversely associated with hepatic cT1. With the sample split by median liver or body fat, only VPA was inversely associated with hepatic cT1 in the upper median groups for body (-2.68 ms [-4.24 to -1.13]) and liver fat (-2.33 [-3.73 to -0.93]). PA was unrelated to hepatic cT1 in the lower median groups. Conclusions: Within a population-based cohort, device-measured PA is inversely associated with hepatic fibro-inflammation. This relationship is strongest with VPA and is greater in people with higher levels of body and liver fat. Lay summary: This study has shown that people who regularly perform greater amounts of physical activity have a reduced level of inflammation and fibrosis in their liver. This beneficial relationship is particularly strong when more intense physical activity is undertaken (i.e., vigorous-intensity), and is most visible in individuals with higher levels of liver fat and body fat.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100622
JournalJHEP Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan


  • Exercise
  • Liver fat
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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