As an Exercise Physiologist I am thinking about the risk of exercise daily. Particularly with clients that may have pre-existing chronic conditions, and my goal is to make it as safe as possible. However, I have to admit, that when I exercise I put no thought into it’s inherent risk.

Many of us hear stories about people suddenly dropping dead while on the treadmill or out running, and I know some that can use this as a reason not to exercise at all.

Exercise does carry risk, not only do you have a chance of death but also injury. So is it worth it?

Studies looking into the chance of death during exercise show that the risk is about 1 for every 792,000 hours of exercise (1). This equates to one death for every 15,260 people exercising, which is about the same risk of dying in a car accident.

Interestingly a large scale study of death’s in a commercial gym found that there was one death per 2.57 million workouts or 1 death per 87,000 members (2), so we’re starting to talk very low numbers, about the same risk of dying in a fire at home.

So hopefully for you thinking that exercise is too risky, knowing that your chance of death is about 0.006% risk might convince you it’s still worth it.

However if you still need convincing here’s the damning evidence.

If you don’t exercise your chance of death is about four times greater than those who exercise regularly.

In fact, a paper in the British Medical Journal found that non-exercisers have about a 1% chance of death from any cause in any given year, while for regular exercisers it is about 0.26% (3).

So if your exercising because of the 0.006% risk of dying, you are actually increasing your death, most probably from cardiovascular disease, by about 167 times.

Another way of putting it is that for every death that occurs while exercising there is approximately 112 lives saved through it.

If I were a betting man I’d take those odds!

If you’re interested in finding out more ways to improve your chance of living a long and healthy life, please feel free to to join us at our up-and-coming “FESS up” seminar.



  1. Thompson, P. D., E. J. Funk, R. A. Carleton, and W. Q. Sturner. Incidence of death during jogging in Rhode Island from 1975 through 1980. JAMA 247:2535–2538, 1982.
  2. Franklin, B. A., J. M. Conviser, B. Stewart, J. Lasch, and G. C. Timmis. Sporadic exercise: a trigger for acute cardiovascular events? Circulation 102:II-612, 2005.
  3. van Dam, R. M., Li, T., Spiegelman, D., Franco, O. H., and F. B. Hu. Combined impact of lifestyle factors on mortality: prospective cohort study in US women. BMJ 337:a1440, 2008.