Associations Between Aerobic and Muscular Fitness and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: The Northern Ireland Young Hearts Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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It is not clear what the relative contribution is of specific components of physical fitness (aerobic and muscular) to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. We investigated associations between aerobic fitness (endurance) and muscular fitness (power) and CVD risk factors.


Data were obtained from the Young Hearts project, a representative sample of 12- and 15-year-old boys and girls from Northern Ireland (N = 2016). Aerobic fitness was determined by the 20-m shuttle run test, muscular fitness by the Sargent jump test. CVD risk factors included sum of skinfolds, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, serum total cholesterol (TC), HDL cholesterol, and TC:HDL ratio. Several linear regression analyses were conducted for 4 age and gender groups separately, with the risk factor as the outcome variable.


Significant associations between aerobic fitness and a healthy CVD risk profile were found. These observed relationships were independent of power, whereas the (few) relationships between muscular fitness and the risk factors were partly explained by endurance.


Tailored, preventive strategies during adolescence, incorporating endurance rather than power sports, could be encouraged to help prevent CVD. This is important because existing studies propose that healthiness during adulthood is founded on healthiness in adolescence.

Hoekstra and Twisk are with the Dept of Health Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Boelelaan 1081-1087, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Boreham is with the Institute for Sport and Health, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, 4, Ireland. Murray is with the Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health, Queens University of Belfast, Belfast, BT12 6BJ, Northern Ireland. Twisk is also with the Dept of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Boelelaan 1081-1087, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.