We compared various indices for physical activity and their association with cardiovascular risk factors as well as total and cardiovascular disease mortality. We used data from three independent national representative samples in Germany, with a total of 7,689 men and 7,747 women age 25-69 years. Persons with high conditioning physical activity had more favorable risk factor levels compared with sedentary persons, after adjustment for age, body mass index, smoking, survey period, and socioeconomic status. We observed a clear association with mortality only for intense physical activity. The rate ratio (RR) for total mortality was 0.36 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.16-0.79] and 0.26 (95% CI = 0.08-0.83) for cardiovascular disease mortality for men spending more than 2 hours per week on sports, compared with sedentary men. Among women, the corresponding RR for total mortality was 0.28 (95% CI = 0.07-1.17). The effect of physical activity on cardiovascular disease mortality among women was not clear owing to few fatal cardiovascular events.