Cancer is globally increasing and is one of the major threats to healthy aging. To date we have no indications that this will change for decades. While the relationship between physical fitness and cardiovascular diseases is well documented, the relationship between cancer and cardiorespiratory fitness is less studied.
Physical activity has been shown to benefit the cancer patients in many ways, such as improved quality of life, reduced fatigue and better cardiorespiratory fitness. In addition, it is well established that being physically active reduces the risk of developing several cancer types. In fact, as much as one-fifth to one-third of several common cancer types, including breast- and colon cancer, are associated with low levels of physical activity together with obesity. However, the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and cancer survival is less well documented.
Researchers from Denmark recently published a large long time follow up study where they investigated the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and death from cancer. The study included 5131 cancer free men and tested their cardiorespiratory fitness. The men were followed up for 42 years and during the follow up period 1527 (29.8%) of them died from cancer. Interestingly, the researchers found a highly significant association between cardiorespiratory fitness and death from cancer. For every 10 mL/kg/min increase of estimated cardiorespiratory fitness (measured as maximum oxygen uptake) risk of death decreased by 17-24%. It must be mentioned that cardiorespiratory fitness was not associated with death from prostate cancer but associated with other groups of cancer.
Based on this study, it is clear that cardiorespiratory fitness should be considered in order to reduce the risk of dying from cancer. Recently a Scientific Statement on Cardiorespiratory Fitness released by the American Heart Association identified cardiorespiratory fitness as a vital sign, which should be used in clinical practice.
Perhaps the clear association they found in this study between cardiorespiratory fitness and cancer survival can also encourage and inspire us to change our lifestyle.
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a catastrophic cardiac event, that is often the first, last and only cardiac event for unfortunate victims. In a study published July 1,2016 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, led by David Jimenez-Pavon, Enrique Artero, DC Lee and senior author , Dr Steven Blair from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, my colleagues and I reported on a cohort of over 55,000 followed for 15 years on average , during which 109 SCDs occurred.
Tiredness or fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms in primary care. There are many different types of fatigue. For example, people may experience fatigue if they cannot sleep well or if they exercise intensively. But there are a lot of older people that feel fatigued all day every day for no apparent reason. This can be distressing and may reduce their quality of life. We don’t currently know a great deal about this problem. For example, we don’t know how daily physical activity levels are related to these experiences of fatigue. On one hand, people who are more active might be more likely to feel tired. But on the other hand, people who experience unrelenting fatigue may be forced to be less active. I am a post-doctoral research fellow working in the Geriatrics, Movement and Stroke (GeMS) group at NTNU, and through collaboration with CERG and the Generation 100 study, I was able to try and find out a bit more about fatigue.
The Senior Olympics is a biennial competition for athletes over 50 and consist of a variety of sports, and for this year ́s Games, in and around Minneapolis-St. Paul, in Minnesota, nearly 10,000 men and women aged from 50 to 100 participate. The games begin on Friday 2nd of July. Senior Olympians are not professional athletes, but most train frequently, and tend to be more physically active than other people of the same chronological age.
CERGs Fitness Calculator has been extremely popular worldwide and the calculated Fitness Number was recently shown to be a robust predict of current and future health. CERG is now making the first catalogue of global fitness for “normal people” that could be used for a variety of purposes, especially to define large-scale public health policies. We have now fitness data from exactly 100 countries and on average about 1000 new users worldwide register their fitness and health data every day.
Also, we aim to study special groups such as the Senior Athletes. In collaboration with Dr. Pamela Peeke at The University of Maryland and board member of the foundation that runs the National Senior Games we are now determining the health status and their Fitness Age. So far we have collected data on more than 5000 of the Senior Athletes before the Games starts, and expect to have data for most of the 10,000 participants within the upcoming week. As can be seen from the figure to the right, Fitness Age in both Senior Olympic men and women was about 25 years lower than their real age.
This is a massive difference! We had expected a big difference as these people have trained for years and are probably among the fittest in the world in their age groups. However we were surprised it was that big. As can be seen from the figure to the left their peak oxygen uptake (fitness number) is about 13 ml/kg/min higher compared with their healthy, normally active and age matched counterparts.
The response to exercise training is often described in general terms, with the assumption that the group average represents a typical response for most individuals. However, in reality, it is more common for individuals to show a wide range of responses to identical exercise programs. In 1999, a large study published by Claude Bouchard and colleagues, reported that 20 % of us show little or no gain in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) with exercise training. This is a concern, since a high VO2max is associated with decreased rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Exploring the phenomenon of high responders and low responders following the same exercise program may provide helpful insights into mechanisms of training adaptation and methods of training prescription.
Our popular fitness calculator has been updated and now you can also see the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease when you get to the results page. Fortunately, exercise gives immediate positive effects, and it is easy to reduce your risk by exercise.
Many studies suggest that your cardiorespiratory fitness level, measured as peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), is the single best predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and premature cardiovascular mortality. Such testing, however, is very rare in healthcare settings due to costly and time-consuming procedures. In a study from 2011, we demonstrated how VO2peak can be estimated simply on the basis of easily available clinical and self-reported variables such as age, gender, physical activity level, body composition and resting heart rate.
During the last few months our fitness calculator has spread all around the world, and has been tested by more than 1.5 million people. When answering a few questions about physical activity and physiological measures, the calculator provides information about estimated VO2max, which is a well established measure of fitness. You also get to know you “fitness age” – meaning, your physical condition compared to the result of direct measurement of VO2max in a healthy population aged 20-90 years (the HUNT study). In a previous blog post we have explained the background and how to understand the results in details.
One of the main purposes of our research group is to uncover how to treat and prevent major societal health problems, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. We approach the issues from multiple angles, ranging from large epidemiological studies to studying the molecular mechanisms activated by physical training.
The fact that the fitness calculator has become so popular, gave us an idea: Why not collect this information in a database, in order to increase the knowledge of maximal oxygen uptake and cardiovascular health in a greater population than earlier?
Today we therefore launch our VO2max calculator in a new and extended version. After entering your data you will be asked for your consent to storing data for future research. It is 100 % anonymous, and no identifying information is required. However, you are totally able to decline, and use the calculator only for your own information as before.