Exercise patterns and peak oxygen uptake in a healthy population: the HUNT study

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Oct;44(10):1881-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318258b443.


Purpose: The objective of this study is to examine how different approaches of the current exercise recommendations for adults associate with VO(2peak) in a large healthy population. We further examined how a lower duration than recommended, if performed at very vigorous intensity, was related to VO(2peak).

Methods: A total of 4631 healthy adults age 19-89 yr (2263 men and 2368 women) were tested for VO(2peak) (mean = 44.3 and 35.9 mL.kg(-1).min(-1) for men and women, respectively). Information on exercise habits was collected through a questionnaire, including questions on frequency, duration, and relative intensity (Borg scale 6-20). A general linear model was applied to assess the associations between physical activity and VO(2peak).

Results: VO(2peak) did not differ considerably between people who reported to exercise ≥ 150 min.wk(-1) (average = 216 min.wk(-1) , VO(2peak) = 45.2 and 36.5 mL.kg(-1).min(-1)for men and women, respectively) with moderate intensity and people who reported 75-149 min.wk(-1) (average = 112.5 min.wk(-1) , VO(2peak) = 47.5 and 37.3 mL.kg(-1).min(-1) for men and women) with vigorous intensity, but it was higher than that in people who reported inactivity (VO(2peak) = 40.1 and 32.3 mL.kg(-1).min(-1)for men and women) or low-intensity exercise (VO(2peak) = 41.2 and 40.1 mL.kg(-1).min(-1)for men and women). Reporting exercise at very vigorous intensity but with a duration of less than 75 min.wk(-1) (average = 49 min.wk(-1) ) was associated with a VO(2peak) that was similarly high (47.6 and 36.7 mL.kg(-1).min(-1) for men and women).

Conclusion: Our findings support current recommendations by showing that exercise of both "moderate intensity-long duration" and "vigorous intensity-short duration" was associated with similarly high VO(2peak). Our results also suggest that exercising at very vigorous intensity may be beneficial for VO(2peak) even with considerably lower total exercise time than expressed in today's recommendations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult