Purpose: We examined leisure-time physical activities (LTPA) and their contribution to peak oxygen consumption (VO2) in healthy men (N = 619) and women (N = 497) aged 18-95 yr (mean 51 +/- 17) who were participants of the Baltimore Longitudinal study of Aging.
Methods: Calculations of LTPA were based on the average self-reported time spent performing 97 activities and converted into MET-min x 24 h(-1). The activities were divided into three levels of LTPA based on absolute intensity. Peak VO2 was determined from a maximal treadmill exercise test.
Results: Total LTPA was inversely related to age in both sexes (r = -0.26, P < 0.0001 in men and r = -0.23, P < 0.0001 in women), mediated primarily by less high-intensity activities in older subjects, with only minor differences in moderate- and low-intensity activities across age. Peak VO2 correlated positively with LTPA; the correlations were strongest for high-intensity LTPA (r = 0.33 in men and 0.27 in women, each P < 0.0001), intermediate for moderate-intensity activity (r = 0.12, P < 0.004 in men and r = 0.17, P < 0.0001 in women) and minimal for low-intensity activity (r = 0.08, P = 0.05 in men and r = 0.06, P = 0.20 in women). On univariate analysis, total LTPA accounted for 12.9% of peak VO2 variance for men and 10.6% for women. By multivariate analysis, LTPA independently accounted for 1.6% of the peak VO2 variance in men and 1.8% in women after controlling for age and body mass index.
Conclusions: In healthy adults across a broad age range, LTPA is a relatively minor independent contributor to aerobic capacity.