Physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cardiovascular health: A clinical practice statement of the ASPC Part I: Bioenergetics, contemporary physical activity recommendations, benefits, risks, extreme exercise regimens, potential maladaptations

Am J Prev Cardiol. 2022 Oct 13:12:100424. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpc.2022.100424. eCollection 2022 Dec.


Regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (PA) and increased levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) or aerobic capacity are widely promoted as cardioprotective measures in the primary and secondary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular (CV) disease (CVD). Nevertheless, physical inactivity and sedentary behaviors remain a worldwide concern. The continuing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been especially devastating to patients with known or occult CVD since sitting time and recreational PA have been reported to increase and decrease by 28% and 33%, respectively. Herein, in this first of a 2-part series, we discuss foundational factors in exercise programming, with specific reference to energy metabolism, contemporary PA recommendations, the dose-response relationship of exercise as medicine, the benefits of regular exercise training, including the exercise preconditioning cardioprotective phenotype, as well as the CV risks of PA. Finally, we discuss the 'extreme exercise hypothesis,' specifically the potential maladaptations resulting from high-volume, high-intensity training programs, including accelerated coronary artery calcification and incident atrial fibrillation. The latter is commonly depicted by a reverse J-shaped or U-shaped curve. On the other hand, longevity data argue against this relationship, as elite endurance athletes live 3-6 years longer than the general population.

Keywords: Adenosine triphosphate; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Exercise guidelines; Exercise preconditioning; Exercise risks and benefits; Extreme exercise maladaptations; Mitochondria; Mitophagy; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review