Introduction: A physically active lifestyle and a relatively high level of cardiorespiratory fitness are important for longevity and long-term health. No population-based study has prospectively assessed the association of physical activity levels with long-term peak oxygen uptake (VO(2peak)).
Methods: 1843 individuals (906 women and 937 men) who were between 18 and 66 yr at baseline and were free from known lung or heart diseases at both baseline (1984-1986) and follow-up (2006-2008) were included in the study. Self-reported physical activity was recorded at both occasions, and VO(2peak) was measured at follow-up. The association of physical activity levels and VO(2peak) was adjusted for age, level of education, smoking status, and weight change from baseline to follow-up, using ANCOVA statistics.
Results: The level of physical activity at baseline was strongly associated with VO(2peak) at follow-up 23 yr later in both men and women (Ptrends < 0.001). Compared with individuals who were inactive at baseline, women and men who were highly active at baseline had higher (3.3 and 4.6 mL·kg(-1)·min(-1)) VO(2peak) at follow-up. Women who were inactive at baseline but highly active at follow-up had 3.7 mL·kg(-1)·min(-1) higher VO(2peak) compared with women who were inactive both at baseline and at follow-up. The corresponding comparison in men showed a difference of 5.2 mL·kg(-1)·min(-1) (95% confidence interval = 3.1-7.3) in VO(2peak).
Conclusions: Physical activity level at baseline was positively associated with directly measured cardiorespiratory fitness (VO(2peak)) 23 yr later. People who changed from low to high activity during the observation period had substantially higher V˙O(2peak) at follow-up compared with people whose activity remained low.