Introduction: A physically active lifestyle and a relatively high level of cardiorespiratory fitness are important for longevity and long-term health. No population-based study has prospectively assessed the association of physical activity levels with long-term peak oxygen uptake (V˙O2peak).
Methods: 1843 individuals (906 women and 937 men) who were between 18 and 66 yr at baseline and were free from known lung or heart diseases at both baseline (1984-1986) and follow-up (2006-2008) were included in the study. Self-reported physical activity was recorded at both occasions, and V˙O2peak was measured at follow-up. The association of physical activity levels and V˙O2peak was adjusted for age, level of education, smoking status, and weight change from baseline to follow-up, using ANCOVA statistics.
Results: The level of physical activity at baseline was strongly associated with V˙O2peak at follow-up 23 yr later in both men and women (Ptrends < 0.001). Compared with individuals who were inactive at baseline, women and men who were highly active at baseline had higher (3.3 and 4.6 mL·kg−1·min−1) V˙O2peak at follow-up. Women who were inactive at baseline but highly active at follow-up had 3.7 mL·kg−1·min−1 higher V˙O2peak compared with women who were inactive both at baseline and at follow-up. The corresponding comparison in men showed a difference of 5.2 mL·kg−1·min−1 (95% confidence interval = 3.1-7.3) in V˙O2peak.
Conclusions: Physical activity level at baseline was positively associated with directly measured cardiorespiratory fitness (V˙O2peak) 23 yr later. People who changed from low to high activity during the observation period had substantially higher V˙O2peak at follow-up compared with people whose activity remained low.