Regular physical activity is linked to several positive health effects, including reduced risk of illness and death related to cardiovascular disease. However, there has been no research on the relationship between fitness development and the probability of being hospitalized.
The current study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, includes 91 140 individuals who have undergone two repeated health profile assessments in occupational health care. The assessments include fitness tests on bicycle, measurement of weight, height, and blood pressure, as well as questions about living habits and health experiences.
The study compared the changes in fitness between the two health profile assessments with information on subsequent hospital admissions, from national register data. The analysis, which has been carried out over an average of seven years, is partly based on hospital admissions in general and partly focused on cardiovascular diseases specifically.
With maintained fitness, changes were intended by up to plus or minus one percent per year. Major changes were classified as improved or impaired fitness. The time between the participants’ testing events was an average of just over three years.
Results with clear significance for healthcare
The results show that the group with maintained fitness had seven percent fewer hospital admissions during the follow-up period, while individuals who improved their fitness had eleven percent fewer admissions than those whose fitness deteriorated.
For participants who had previously been hospitalized, the difference was greater. If fitness was maintained or increased in this group, the number of hospitalizations was 14 percent less during the follow-up period than when fitness deteriorated.
For hospitalizations due to specific cardiovascular disease, maintained fitness could be linked to nine percent fewer admissions, and increased fitness to 13 percent fewer, compared to deteriorating fitness. The results for those who had previously been hospitalized, and maintained or increased their fitness, show that admissions connected to cardiovascular disease during the follow-up period were correspondingly 20 percent fewer.
All results are adjusted for changes in for example diet, smoking, and perceived stress level.
The study has been conducted by Sahlgrenska Academy and the Department of Nutrition and Sports Science at the University of Gothenburg, the Center for Lifestyle Intervention at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital Östra, the GIH School of Gymnastics and Sports, and the HPI, Health Profile Institute, which is responsible for and have been contributing with the database of health profile assessments carried out by occupational health care.