Is physical activity or aerobic power more influential on reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors?

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Oct;30(10):1521-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199810000-00009.


Purpose: This study determined the relationship between aerobic power (VO2max), physical activity (PA), and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. The study also determined how increased VO2max and increased PA levels influence CVD risk factors of 576 low-fit adults (VO2max < 30

Methods: PA (Baeke questionnaire) and VO2max (submaximal cycle test) of 1664 law enforcement trainees were evaluated with respect to the CVD risk factors of total cholesterol, blood pressure (BP) [BP], smoking, and obesity using separate logistic regression, adjusting for age, gender, and the other major CVD risk factors.

Results: Compared with the lowest tertile of VO2max, the highest tertile had a reduced relative risk (RR) for elevated cholesterol (RR, 0.56; CI, 0.36-0.43), BP (RR, 0.32; CI, 0.15-0.62) and obesity (RR, 0.09; CI, 0.06-0.12). The middle tertile of VO2max compared with the lowest had reduced RR for elevated diastolic BP (RR, 0.44; CI, 0.23-0.66) and obesity (RR: 0.38; CI 0.28-0.50). High PA tertile, compared with low PA tertile, only had lower RR for high systolic BP (RR, 0.48; CI, 0.23-0.95). Compared with the low PA tertile, moderate or high PA had no reduction in any of the RR (P > 0.05). Participation in a 9-wk exercise program by low-fit individuals resulted in a 9% increase in PA levels (P < 0.02); however, only those subjects who increased VO2max (> 3; N = 345) had a reduction in RR for high cholesterol (RR: 0.62; CI 0.42-0.92) and systolic BP (RR: 0.57; CI 0.40-0.80). No reduction in RR were noted for diastolic BP or obesity.

Conclusions: Aerobic power appears to have more of an influence on CVD risk factors than PA levels. Further, in low-fit persons, it appears that PA resulting in an increased aerobic power is associated with a reduction in CVD risk factors of cholesterol and BP in as little as 9 wk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / complications
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Cholesterol