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The risk of gallstones appears to be lowered by regular exercise and raised by a sedentary lifestyle, according to an eight-year study of more than 45,000 men. About 800,000 Americans each year go to the hospital for treatment of gallstones.

One-third of all cases of gallstone disease in men could be prevented by 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five times per week, researchers concluded. Men in the study who watched at least 40 hours of television per week -- an indication of sedentary habits -- had more than twice the risk of gallstones compared with those who watched TV less than six hours a week.

The findings suggest that exercise can help prevent gallstones in ways that go "beyond its benefit for control of body weight," a factor in gallstone disease, researchers said.

"The apparent protective effect is greatest for vigorous physical activity but can also be achieved through moderate exercise, such as rapid walking or hiking," the study concluded.

A team of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reported the findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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