Cardiorespiratory fitness, white blood cell count, and mortality in men and women

J Sport Health Sci. 2022 Sep;11(5):605-612. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2021.10.005. Epub 2021 Nov 3.


Background: We examined the associations of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and white blood cell count (WBC) with mortality outcomes.

Methods: A total of 52,056 apparently healthy adults completed a comprehensive health examination, including a maximal treadmill test and blood chemistry analyses. CRF was categorized as high, moderate, or low by age and sex; WBC was categorized as sex-specific quartiles.

Results: During 17.8 ± 9.5 years (mean ± SD) of follow-up, a total of 4088 deaths occurred. When regressed jointly, significantly decreased all-cause mortality across CRF categories was observed within each quartile of WBC in men. Within WBC Quartile 1, all-cause mortality hazard ratios (HRs) with a 95% confidence interval (95%CI) were 1.0 (referent), 1.29 (95%CI: 1.06‒1.57), and 2.03 (95%CI: 1.42‒2.92) for high, moderate, and low CRF categories, respectively (p for trend < 0.001). Similar trends were observed in the remaining 3 quartiles. With the exception of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality within Quartile 1 (p for trend = 0.743), there were also similar trends across CRF categories within WBC quartiles in men for both CVD and cancer mortality (p for trend < 0.01 for all). For women, there were no significant trends across CRF categories for mortality outcomes within Quartiles 1-3. However, we observed significantly decreased all-cause mortality across CRF categories within WBC Quartile 4 (HR = 1.05 (95%CI: 0.76‒1.44), HR = 1.63 (95%CI:1.20‒2.21), and HR = 1.87 (95%CI:1.29‒2.69) for high, moderate, and low CRF, respectively (p for trend = 0.002)). Similar trends in women were observed for CVD and cancer mortality within WBC Quartile 4 only.

Conclusion: There are strong joint associations between CRF, WBC, and all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality in men; these associations are less consistent in women.

Keywords: Complete blood count; Epidemiology; Inflammation; Physical fitness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Neoplasms*
  • Physical Fitness