Research Group "Lung Epidemiology" - Projects

Life style factors, lung function and health – Physical activity & Sleep

Physical activity is gaining increased attention as a modifiable protective factor for most common diseases of the developed world, including cardiovascular disease and obesity, improving mental health as well as being associated with lower all-cause mortality. There is also clear evidence for the benefits of exercise in chronic lung diseases, like asthma or COPD. However, less is known about potential positive effects on lung function even in lung healthy subjects. Existing evidence supports a dose-response relationship of physical activity with reduced risk of chronic conditions. This is acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO, pdf) recommending certain amounts of moderate and vigorous activity for youths and adults. Accordingly, specific goals of our projects directed at physical activity are:

  • Assess duration, patterns, and domains of physical activity during youth and adulthood in Germany by accelerometry

  • Compare physical activity levels among the youth in Europe (Cooperation with Norwegian School of Sport Sciences)

  • Assess determinants of physical activity embedded in the European Knowledge Hub DEDIPAC

  • Determine the relation of physical activity with lung function, allergic and lung diseases during growth and age-related decline

  • Elucidate the impact of physical activity on development and progression of COPD and its comorbidities and on biomarkers of inflammation and aging

  • Elucidate pathways underlying beneficial effects of physical activity in health and disease by identifying epigenetic, metabolic, and other biomarkers

  • Assess the association of physical activity with other healthy life style factors, such as diet and sleep-


Sleep plays a vital role in brain function and the physiology across many body systems. Sound sleep at all ages is important to promote health and avoid numerous negative health outcomes. However, sleep disruptions, short duration and low quality of sleep are increasingly observed in our society, not only restricted to adults at high age but also occurring in youth and early adulthood. Sleep problems are associated with altered circadian rhythms, activities of the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Eventually, sleep disruption affects quality of life and results in metabolic effects, proinflammatory responses and various health outcomes including altered psychosocial health, cognitive dysfunctioning, negative school performance, and risk-taking behaviours in the youth. In addition, manifest disorders such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and an increased all-cause mortality are found in adults. Accordingly, we directed our research recently towards assessment of sleep behaviour in our cohorts to:

  • Assess sleep behaviour in youth and adulthood in German population based samples by accelerometry
  • Relate accelerometric measures of sleep disruptions to reported daily sleepiness and obstructive sleep apnoea in adults  
  • Determine the association of sleep quality with allergic conditions, early stages of COPD, common morbidities and their biomarkers in population based samples
  • Compare the predictive value of subjectively and objectively assessed sleep quality for health outcomes


Study population:

GINIplus: 15 and 20 year follow-up of the birth cohort started in 1995
LISA: 15 and 20 year follow-up of the birth cohort started in 1997
KORA: KORA FF4 and KORA Fit survey
COSYCONET: The German COPD cohort