Low Physical Capacity

Low Physical Capacity: Say hello to the new smoking

Do you have a low physical capacity? If you do then a recently published study found that your health is nearly at as much risk as if you were a smoker. A 45-year study in middle-aged men concluded that the impact of low physical capacity on the risk of death is secondary only to smoking. The study was intended to examine risk factors for heart disease and death.

Low Physical Capacity

“The advantages of being physically active over a lifetime are clear,” said Dr Per Ladenvall, a lead researcher in the study, in an interview with Science Daily. “Low physical capacity is a higher risk for death than high blood pressure or high cholesterol.”

The study combined 792 men from the “Study of Men Born in 1913,” a representative sample of 50-year-old men in Gothenburg recruited in 1963.

VO2 Max

In 1967, at 54 years of age, 656 men did a maximum exercise test in which they pushed themselves to the limit. Maximal oxygen uptake, called VO2 max, was recorded.

Dr Ladenvall said: “VO2 max is a measure of physical capacity and the higher the figure, the more physically fit a person is.”

After the initial examination, the men were followed up every ten years until 2012, at the age of 100 years. Data on causes of death was obtained from the National Cause of Death Registry.

To investigate the relationship between predicted VO2 max and cause of death the men were divided into three groups.

The researchers found that each group increase in predicted VO2 max equated with a 21% reduced risk of mortality over 45 years of follow-up.

Dr Ladenvall said: “We found that low physical capacity was associated with increased rates of death. The association between physical capacity and causes of death was graded, with the strongest risk in the group with the lowest physical capacity. The effect of physical capacity on the risk of death was second only to smoking.”

“The length of follow-up in our study is unique,” continued Dr Ladenvall. “The risk associated with low physical capacity was evident throughout more than four decades and suggests that being physically active can have a significant impact over a lifetime.”

He concluded: “We have come a long way in diminishing smoking. The next major hurdle is to keep us physically active and also to reduce physical inactivity, such as prolonged sitting.”


This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

One comment on “Low Physical Capacity: Say hello to the new smoking

  1. Thank you for another great article Dominick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.