(HealthDay News) — Higher cardiorespiratory fitness in middle age is strongly associated with lower health care costs later in life, according to a study published in the October 27 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Justin M. Bachmann, MD, from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, and colleagues identified 19,571 healthy individuals in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study who underwent cardiorespiratory fitness assessment at a mean age of 49 years and received Medicare coverage from 1999–2009 at an average age of 71 years. Maximal metabolic equivalents (METs) were calculated from treadmill time and were used to estimate cardiorespiratory fitness.

The researchers found that over 126,388 person-years of follow-up, average annual health care costs were significantly lower for participants aged ≥65 years with high midlife fitness, compared to those with low midlife fitness in both men ($6,846 vs. $11,299; P<0.001) and women ($5,634 vs. $9,318; P<0.001). When adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, average annual health care costs in later life were incrementally lower per MET achieved in midlife in men (6.8% decrease in costs per MET achieved; P<0.001) and women (6.7% decrease in costs per MET achieved; P<0.001).

“These findings may have important implications for health policies directed at improving physical fitness,” the authors write.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)
Editorial (subscription or payment may be required)