News & Insights 1 December 2015

Fitness in young adults predicts cardiovascular disease and death in later life

Physical activity is often thought of as no more than a method of weight management, but its benefits extend far beyond burning calories – it can add years to your life and life to those years, reducing the risk of numerous chronic diseases.

While physical activity has long been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older adults, a new study offers fresh evidence that fitness in young adulthood provides protection against cardiovascular problems developing in the future.

As part of this large study, published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine, 4872 men and women aged between 18 and 30 years underwent a treadmill exercise test at baseline, which a sub-set of 2472 participants did again 7 years later. Median follow-up time was almost 27-years, during which the researchers monitored patients for obesity, hardening in the coronary arteries, heart muscle weakness, and incidents related to cardiovascular disease, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Every additional minute of baseline treadmill test duration was linked with a 15% lower risk of death and 12% lower risk of cardiovascular disease by the end of the follow-up period. Among those that did the second treadmill test, every 1-minute reduction in test duration was linked with a 20% increase in risk of cardiovascular events and 21% risk of death.

The fact that none of the other more traditional risk factors measured, including obesity, smoking, hypertension, and high cholesterol didn’t change the outcome highlights the importance of thinking about physical activity as a mere tool for weight loss.

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr David Chiriboga and Dr Ira Ockene of the University of Massachusetts Medical School wrote that “the findings offer a substantive confirmation of the importance of physical activity in cardiorespiratory fitness in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.” In further communication, Dr Ockene highlights the need for multidimensional physical activity, saying “I spend a lot of time talking to folks not just about literal exercise but also about the extraordinary value of day-today activity,” adding that we should “also understand the importance of limiting sedentary time”

The power of multidimensional physical activity as a diagnostic tool isn’t limited to cardiovascular diseases. In fact, physical activity is fundamental to the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases, including type-2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, some cancers, osteoporosis, and dementia. Being physically active is the single best thing you can do for your health, now and in the future.

The KiActiv HealthCheck accurately evaluates the current physical activity of anyone in relation to their health, delivering a meaningful measure of individual physical activity levels and the associated future disease risks. By delivering actionable behavioural insights, the KiActiv HealthCheck can help improve your understanding of current health status and what you need to do to improve your health and lower disease risk.

The KiActiv® Team