The relationships between physical activity, physical fitness, and coronary heart disease risk factors measured in a large community sample were evaluated. Self-reported physical activity using a single question, maximal oxygen consumption estimates derived from the Pawtucket Heart Health Step Test, blood pressure, nonfasting lipids, and body mass index were cross-sectionally evaluated in 381 men and 556 women. The correlation of estimated maximal oxygen consumption and self-reported physical activity was modest but statistically significant (r = 0.13 in men and r = 0.19 in women). Blood pressure, body mass index, and HDL cholesterol were correlated with physical fitness (r = 0.24-0.65) and correlated to self-reported physical activity (r = 0.09-0.14). Evaluation of coronary heart disease risk factors using both physical activity and physical fitness revealed a complex relationship that generally showed a stronger relationship with measures of physical fitness than with physical activity. This study suggests that simultaneous measurement of physical activity and physical fitness may be useful in epidemiologic studies of habitual physical activity and chronic disease.
(C)1995The American College of Sports Medicine