Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Physical Fitness Cuts Heart, Death Risk

Study Shows Cardiorespiratory Fitness Helps Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
WebMD Health News

May 20, 2009 -- People who are physically fit, as measured by a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), are less likely to develop heart disease and less likely to die from any cause, a study shows.

Researchers say it's rare for doctors to consider cardiorespiratory fitness in evaluating a person's risk of future heart disease or death, mostly because the degree of risk reduction associated with different levels of physical fitness was unclear.

But a review of studies shows that people with a low level of cardiorespiratory fitness have a 70% higher risk of death from any cause compared with those with a high level of fitness.

"We suggest that CRF, which can be readily assessed by an exercise stress test, could be useful for prediction of [heart disease] and all-cause mortality risk in a primary care medical practice," write researcher Satoru Kodama, MD, PhD, of the University of Tsukuba Institute of Clinical Medicine in Ibaraki, Japan, and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness for Long Life

In the review, researchers analyzed the relationship between physical fitness, expressed by cardiorespiratory fitness, and the risk of death found in 33 different studies involving nearly 190,000 people.

Cardiorespiratory fitness is measured through exercise stress testing, in which participants typically exercise by walking on a treadmill until they become fatigued or feel exhaustion. CRF was then estimated as maximal aerobic capacity expressed in metabolic equivalents (METs).

METs indicate the amount of oxygen the body consumes during activity and represents a standard scale on which to measure exercise workload. One MET is equivalent to the oxygen the body uses at rest. Being able to attain a high degree of oxygen use during exercise, and therefore have a high MET level, is an indicator of physical fitness.

The researchers found that compared to those with a high CRF, those with low cardiorespiratory fitness had a 70% higher risk of death from any cause and a 56% higher risk of heart disease events, such as heart attack or stroke. Compared to those with an intermediate level of physical fitness, those with a low CRF had a 40% higher risk of death from any cause and 47% higher risk of heart events.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure