Purpose: To relate seven year changes in physical fitness and physical activity in the young adult population to changes in the plasma lipid profile and to examine the influence of weight change on those relationships.
Methods: The participants in this observational study were the 1777 black and white men and women, ages 18-30 at entry into the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) cohort, who completed a symptom-limited graded treadmill exercise test and had an overnight fasting blood draw at both the Baseline (1985-86) and Year 7 (1992-93) exams. CARDIA, a longitudinal study of the relationships of lifestyle and physiological variables to the development of coronary heart disease risk factors, consists of population-based cohorts in Birmingham, Alabama, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Chicago, Illinois and a cohort recruited from the membership of a large, pre-paid health care plan, broadly representative of the population, in Oakland, California.
Results: All race/gender groups experienced mean decreases in physical fitness and self-reported physical activity and increases in weight. Decreased fitness was associated with decreased high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C), and conversely, increased fitness was associated with increased HDL-C. The correlation coefficients of change in fitness with change in HDL-C ranged from 0.17 in white men and black women to 0.24 in white women (P < 0.001 for all race/gender groups). Change in fitness was minimally correlated with change in low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) in all groups (r ranged from -0.09 in black women to -0.20 in white women), triglycerides (TG) in men and white women (r ranged from -0.10 to -0.15), and total cholesterol (TC) in white men and women (r = -0.11 and -0.15, respectively). The magnitude of these correlations was further reduced with adjustment for weight change. Correlations between change in activity and change in lipid and lipoprotein values were generally weak or nonexistent, except for the suggestion of a small, direct relationship with change in HDL-C in black and white women (r = 0.14 and r = 0.11, respectively). All of the weight change adjusted correlations were essentially unaffected by further adjustment for baseline fitness or activity and other covariates.
Conclusions: Decreased fitness during young adulthood is associated with unfavorable changes in lipid profile, explained mostly by increased weight. Lack of association between change in activity and change in lipid profile observed in this study may be due, in part, to imprecision of activity measurement.