Average fitness numbers

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 mean maximal oxygen uptake in women and men were 35 and 44 mL/kg/min, respectively. The material suggested a ~7% decline in maximal oxygen uptake with every 10 year age increase in both genders.

Age-group Women Men

Mean maximal oxygen uptake across the age-groups

20-29 years

43 mL·kg-1·min-1 54 mL·kg-1·min-1
30-39 years 40 mL·kg-1·min-1 49 mL·kg-1·min-1
40-49 years 38 mL·kg-1·min-1 47 mL·kg-1·min-1
50-59 years 34 mL·kg-1·min-1 42 mL·kg-1·min-1
60-69 years 31 mL·kg-1·min-1 39 mL·kg-1·min-1
Over 70 years 27 mL·kg-1·min-1 34 mL·kg-1·min-1
  Age-group Inactive Highly active

Active elderly persons are as fit as inactive young persons

Men 20-29 years 47 mL·kg-1·min-1 60 mL·kg-1·min-1
50-59 years 38 mL·kg-1·min-1 47 mL·kg-1·min-1
Women 20-29 years 37 mL·kg-1·min-1 49 mL·kg-1·min-1
50-59 years 31 mL·kg-1·min-1 37 mL·kg-1·min-1
 

Fitness is linked to disease risk

Women and men below the gender-specific mean were four to eight times more likely to have a cluster of more than 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.

The study indicates that cardiovascular fitness may be even more important for cardiac health than previously thought. The material is the historically largest and most robust of it's kind. From the same data, we also developed The Fitness Calculator, a non-exercise model that allows anyone to easily estimate their maximal oxygen uptake.

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