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Fitness and a Healthy Body Weight in Young Men Prevents Future Disability


Noncommunicable diseases are public health issues that lead to early death and disability. Psychiatric, musculoskeletal, nervous system, cardiovascular disorders, cancer and injuries all contribute to this burden. Many countries grant disability pensions to working-aged persons who are likely to never work full time again because of chronic disease or injury. Therefore the identification of early and modifiable risk factors for later chronic disease is of great public health importance.

A recent large Swedish study examined the individual and combined associations of cardiorespiratory status and obesity in male adolescents with later receipt of a disability pension due to all causes. The study participants included 1,079,128 Swedish adolescent males aged 16 to 19 who were in the military between 1972 and 1994.

Over a median follow up of 28.3 years 54,304 men were granted a disability pension. It was found that low cardiorespiratory fitness was a strong risk factor for later chronic disability of all causes. Severe obesity was also strongly associated with an increased risk of receiving a disability pension due to all causes. Higher cardiorespiratory fitness attenuated the risk of receiving a disability pension across all BMI categories. Interestingly, highly fit individuals with obesity had a lower risk for disability due to psychiatric causes than unfit adolescents with normal weight.

These findings support the importance of high cardiorespiratory fitness and healthy body weight during adolescence to prevent later chronic disease.

Pontus Henriksson, PhD; Hanna Henricksson, PhD; PerTynelius, MSc; Marie Lof, PhD; I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD; Eric J. Shiroma, ScD; and Francisco B. Ortega, PhD. Fitness and Body Mass Index During Adolescence and Disability Later in Life. A Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2019;170:230-239.

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