Is physical activity or aerobic power more influential on reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors?

Robert G. McMurray, Barbara E. Ainsworth, Joanne S. Harrell, Thomas R. Griggs, O. Dale Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study determined the relationship between aerobic power (VO2(max)), physical activity (PA), and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. The study also determined how increased VO2(max) and increased PA levels influence CVD risk factors of 576 low-fit adults (VO2(max) < 30 mL · kg-1 · min-1). Methods: PA (Baeke questionnaire) and VO2(max) (submaximal cycle test) of 1664 law enforcement trainees were evaluated with respect to the CVD risk factors of total cholesterol, blood pressure (BP) [BP], smoking, and obesity using separate logistic regression, adjusting for age, gender, and the other major CVD risk factors. Results: Compared with the lowest tertile of VO2(max), the highest tertile had a reduced relative risk (RR) for elevated cholesterol RR, 0.56; CI, 0.36-0.43), BP (RR, 0.32; CI, 0.15-0.62) and obesity (RR, 0.09; CI, 0.06-0.12). The middle tertile of VO2(max) compared with the lowest had reduced RR for elevated diastolic BP (RR, 0.44; CI, 0.23-0.66) and obesity (RR: 0.38; CI 0.28-0.50). High PA tertile, compared with low PA tertile, only had lower RR for high systolic BP (RR, 0.48; CI, 0.23-0.95). Compared with the low PA tertile, moderate or high PA had no reduction in any of the RR (P > 0.05). Participation in a 9-wk exercise program by low-fit individuals resulted in a 9% increase in PA levels (P < 0.02); however, only those subjects who increased VO2(max) (~>3 mL · kg-1 · min-1 = 345) had a reduction in RR for high cholesterol (RR: 0.62; CI 0.42-0.92) and systolic BP (RR: 0.57; CI 0.40-0.80). No reduction in RR were noted for diastolic BP or obesity. Conclusions: Aerobic power appears to have more of an influence on CVD risk factors than PA levels. Further, in low-fit persons, it appears that PA resulting in an increased aerobic power is associated with a reduction in CVD risk factors of cholesterol and BP in as little as 9 wk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1521-1529
Number of pages9
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 1998


  • BP
  • Cholesterol
  • Exercise program
  • Fitness
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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