Cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and obesity in adolescence and later chronic disability due to cardiovascular disease: a cohort study of 1 million men

Eur Heart J. 2020 Apr 14;41(15):1503-1510. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz774.


Aims: Cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and obesity in adulthood are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, little is known regarding the associations of these risk factors, already in adolescence, with later disability due to chronic CVD. Hence, we investigated associations of cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and body mass index (BMI) in adolescence with later chronic disability due to specific causes of CVD disability (i.e. cerebrovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease and heart failure).

Methods and results: This population-based cohort study included 1 078 685 male adolescents (16-19 years) from the Swedish military conscription register from 1972 to 1994. Cardiorespiratory fitness (bicycle ergometer test), muscular strength (knee extension strength), and BMI were measured during the conscription examination. Information about disability pension due to CVD was retrieved from the Social Insurance Agency during a mean follow-up of 28.4 years. Cardiorespiratory fitness was strongly and inversely associated with later risk of chronic CVD disability for all investigated causes. The association was particularly strong for ischaemic heart diseases (hazard ratio 0.11, 95% confidence interval 0.05-0.29 for highest vs. lowest fitness-quintiles). Furthermore, overweight/obesity were associated with CVD disability for all investigated causes. Conversely, associations of muscular strength with CVD disability were generally weak.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence for associations between low levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and obesity with later risk of chronic disability due to CVD. Preventive actions may begin at young ages and include promotion of cardiorespiratory fitness and healthy body weight.

Keywords: Cardiorespiratory fitness; Cardiovascular disease; Disability; Muscular strength; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity*
  • Physical Fitness
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden