Fitness should be an important part of any cardiovascular risk assessment, based on a recent study that found healthy adults with poor fitness had up to twofold greater risk of death than those who were physically fit.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study looked at the association between fitness and mortality. It included a total of 4,137 healthy middle-aged adults, all of whom completed exercise testing to assess their fitness level. After their assessments, participants were followed for an average of 24 years to track deaths from all causes. The goal of the study was to see whether fitness levels had any impact on risk of death.
What makes the study stand out, according to authors, is that it used a gold-standard test for assessing fitness called cardiopulmonary exercise (CPX) testing. During the test, patients exercise on a treadmill or bike for a short period of time to measure their maximum oxygen uptake. While we know that exercise significantly reduces risk of heart disease and death, few studies have used this type of gold standard testing in studies related to fitness and mortality.
During the follow-up period, there were a total of 727 deaths among the 4,137 participants. Researchers found that participants with poor fitness had 73% greater risk of death from any cause than those with good fitness. Worse, those with poor fitness were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease or cancer as those who were physically fit.
Researchers also note that when looking at different levels of fitness, the more fit participants were, the lower their risk of death.
Findings confirm the link between cardiorespiratory fitness and mortality risk, highlighting the importance of exercise testing for risk assessments. According to authors, exercise testing could be used in healthy populations to identify patients at increased risk of death. This risk assessment could help guide treatment decisions and lifestyle changes to promote better health. Testing could also be used to motivate patients to increase their physical activity and improve their fitness levels.
However, we still have plenty more to learn on the subject, according to authors. Studies have yet to confirm whether improving fitness levels will actually help patients reduce their risk of death. And experts note that additional research is needed to understand the impact of exercise testing on outcomes. Extensive testing in healthy populations means increased costs, and it’s important to weigh those costs against potential public health benefits.
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