Fitness numbers and health – The HUNT3 Fitness Study
Physical fitness is very important for longevity and good health. The maximal oxygen uptake is the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness. To investigate the distribution of maximal oxygen uptake across a healthy, adult population, we at the Cardiac Exercise Research Group tested more than 4,600 healthy Norwegians between 20 and 90 years of age.
The tests were performed between 2006 and 2008 as part of the third wave of the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT3). We still base much of our research on data from the HUNT3 Fitness Study. From the same material we also made our popular Fitness Calculator, a non-exercise algorithm that estimates fitness accurately and preditcts future health.
Average fitness numbers
The mean maximal oxygen uptake in women and men participating in the HUNT3 Fitness Study were 35 and 44 mL/kg/min, respectively. The results suggest a ~7% decline in maximal oxygen uptake with every 10 year age increase in both genders.
|Over 70 years||27||34|
Higher fitness, lower disease risk
Women and men below the gender-specific mean were four to eight times more likely to have a cluster of at least three cardiovascular risk factors – called the metabolic syndrome – compared to the most fit quartile of subjects. We also observed that maximal oxygen uptake may represent a continuum from health to disease, and that a general 5 mL/kg/min lower maximal oxygen uptake was associated with ~56% higher odds of having the metabolic syndrome.
Moreover, high cardirespiratory fitness reveals the risk of heart attack in healthy persons. We found a strong link between higher fitness and reduced risk of a coronary event during the nine years following the HUNT3 Fitness Study. Only 147 participants had a heart attack or were diagnosed with angina pectoris during follow-up. The 25 % who measured the highest fitness levels had half the risk compared to those with the lowest fitness levels.
We have also related higher cardiorespiratory fitness to better lung function. We studied the association between forced expiratory lung volume in one second (FEV1) and maximum oxygen uptake in 741 HUNT3 Fitness Study participants aged 20 to 79 years, and found a linear relationship between better lung function and higher fitness in men, women, young, elderly and non-smokers.
Furthermore, we found that the lower cardiorespiratory fitness, the higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in blood. CRP levels indicate general inflammation, and high CRP is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The results might indicate that poor fitness contributes to increased inflammation, and that exercise to improve aerobic capacity could affect CRP levels positively. 1400 women and men from the HUNT3 Fitness Study was included in this study.
Read the full research article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings:
Inflammation Is Strongly Associated With Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Sex, BMI, and the Metabolic Syndrome in a Self-reported Healthy Population: HUNT3 Fitness Study
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NTNU, Fakultet for medisin og helsevitenskap
Institutt for sirkulasjon og bildediagnostikk
St. Olavs Hospital
Prinsesse Kristinas gt. 3
Akutten og Hjerte-lunge-senteret, 3. etg.