Fitness Is Second Only to Smoking As Predictor of Mortality

Low physical fitness is associated with increased mortality rates, independent of traditional risk factors, according to the results of a long-term study.

Previous short-term studies have shown associations between low aerobic capacity and increased mortality rates, but long-term study data on the subject are lacking.  The researchers also aimed to investigate the predictive power of aerobic capacity for mortality during 45 years of follow-up.
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For their study, the researchers included 792 men from the Study of Men Born in 1913, who were about 50 years old at the time of recruitment in 1963.

At baseline in 1967, 656 men completed a maximum exercise test—some men could not complete the test due to health conditions—and the researchers measured peak oxygen uptake (VO2max).

The men had a follow-up visit, which included a physical examination, about every 10 years until 2012 when the men were about 100 years old. The researchers used the National Cause of Death Registry to obtain all-cause death data.

To perform their analysis, the researchers categorized the men into 3 tertiles based on their VO2max scores: 2.00 L/min (low), 2.26 L/min (medium), and 2.56 L/min (high).

After adjusting for risk factors including smoking, blood pressure, and serum cholesterol, the researchers found that the men had a 21% lower risk of death with every tertile increase in VO2max scores.

“The variable impact (Wald’s χ2) of predicted VO2max tertiles (15.3) on mortality was secondary only to smoking (31.4),” they wrote.

“In this representative population sample of middle-aged men, low aerobic capacity was associated with increased mortality rates, independent of traditional risk factors, including smoking, blood pressure, and serum cholesterol, during more than 40 years of follow-up,” the researchers concluded.

—Amanda Balbi

Reference:

Ladenvall P, Persson CU, Mandalenakis Z, et al. Low aerobic capacity in middle-aged men associated with increased mortality rates during 45 years of follow-up [published online July 26, 2016]. Eur J Cardiol. doi:10.1177/2047487316655466.