This study examined the associations of body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) with incident functional limitation (IFL) in adults.
Patients (n = 2400), 30+ years [mean age, 45.2 (SD, 8.3); 12% women], completed a baseline health examination during 1979 to 1995. CRF was quantified by age-and sex-specific thirds for maximal treadmill exercise test duration. Adiposity was assessed by BMI and WC (grouped for analysis according to clinical guidelines). Incident IFL was identified from mail-back surveys during 1995, 1999, and 2004.
After adjusting for potential confounders and either BMI or WC, CRF was inversely related to IFL (P trend < .001). The association between BMI and IFL was significant after adjusting for all confounders (P trend = .002), but not after additional adjustment for CRF (P trend = .23). After controlling for all confounders and CRF, high WC was associated with greater odds of IFL in those aged 30 to 49; normal WC was associated with greater odds of IFL in those aged 50+.
CRF was a significant predictor of IFL in middle aged and older adults, independent of overall or abdominal adiposity. Clinicians should consider the importance of preserving functional capacity by recommending regular physical activity for normal-weight and overweight individuals.