Objective: To investigate secular change of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and body composition during 35 years in a large sample of women enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study.
Patients and methods: A cross-sectional analysis of baseline fitness data collected during preventive medical examination of 13,037 women aged 20 to 64 years evaluated at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas, from January 1, 1970, through December 30, 2004, who underwent a body composition assessment and a maximal treadmill exercise test. Women were stratified by examination year (5 years for each group) and age. Analysis of covariance was used to ascertain secular change of CRF and body composition.
Results: Adjusted CRF levels, as indicated by maximal metabolic equivalent or relative maximum oxygen consumption, among women in the cohort increased significantly during a 35-year period for both age groups (P<.001). The greatest change occurred during the 1970s to 1980s, with a small decrease in 2000 through 2004 in both age groups. Adjusted body mass index increased 9.05% during the past 35 years (P<.001), but adjusted percentage of body fat was significantly higher in 1980 through 1984 than in the other groups (P<.001).
Conclusions: In a large cohort of women, the mean CRF has improved during the past 35 years, with a slight decrease in 2000 through 2004. From 1980 through 2004, the increase in body weight was mainly attributable to the increase in fat-free mass.
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