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Is cardiorespiratory fitness associated with future health benefits in children and adolescents?
This systematic review and meta-analysis of 55 studies that included 37 563 youths revealed that cardiorespiratory fitness levels and change over approximately 1 year during youth were associated with lower risk of developing obesity and cardiometabolic disease later in life. These early associations detected from baseline to follow-up dissipated over time.
The study suggests that prevention strategies that target youth cardiorespiratory fitness may be associated with improved health parameters in later life.
Although the associations between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and health in adults are well understood, to date, no systematic review has quantitatively examined the association between CRF during youth and health parameters later in life.
To examine the prospective association between CRF in childhood and adolescence and future health status and to assess whether changes in CRF are associated with future health status at least 1 year later.
For this systematic review and meta-analysis, MEDLINE, Embase, and SPORTDiscus electronic databases were searched for relevant articles published from database inception to January 30, 2020.
The following inclusion criteria were used: CRF measured using a validated test and assessed at baseline and/or its change from baseline to the end of follow-up, healthy population with a mean age of 3 to 18 years at baseline, and prospective cohort design with a follow-up period of at least 1 year.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
Data were processed according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Random-effects models were used to estimate the pooled effect size.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Anthropometric and adiposity measurements and cardiometabolic health parameters.
Fifty-five studies were included with a total of 37 563 youths (46% female). Weak-moderate associations were found between CRF at baseline and body mass index (r = –0.11; 95% CI, –0.18 to –0.04; I2 = 59.03), waist circumference (r = –0.29; 95% CI, –0.42 to –0.14; I2 = 69.42), skinfold thickness (r = –0.34; 95% CI, –0.41 to –0.26; I2 = 83.87), obesity (r = –0.15; 95% CI, –0.23 to –0.06; I2 = 86.75), total cholesterol level (r = –0.12; 95% CI, –0.19 to –0.05; I2 = 75.81), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level (r = 0.11; 95% CI, 0.05-0.18; I2 = 69.06), total cholesterol to HDL-C ratio (r = –0.19; 95% CI, –0.26 to –0.13; I2 = 67.07), triglyceride levels (r = –0.10; 95% CI, –0.18 to –0.02; I2 = 73.43), homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance (r = –0.12; 95% CI, –0.18 to –0.06; I2 = 68.26), fasting insulin level (r = –0.07; 95% CI, –0.11 to –0.03; I2 = 0), and cardiometabolic risk (r = –0.18; 95% CI, –0.29 to –0.07; I2 = 90.61) at follow-up. Meta-regression analyses found that early associations in waist circumference (β = 0.014; 95% CI, 0.002-0.026), skinfold thickness (β = 0.006; 95% CI, 0.002-0.011), HDL-C level (β = −0.006; 95% CI, −0.011 to −0.001), triglyceride levels (β = 0.009; 95% CI, 0.004-0.014), and cardiometabolic risk (β = 0.007; 95% CI, 0.003-0.011) from baseline to follow-up dissipated over time. Weak-moderate associations were found between change in CRF and body mass index (r = –0.17; 95% CI, –0.24 to –0.11; I2 = 39.65), skinfold thickness (r = –0.36; 95% CI, –0.58 to –0.09; I2 = 96.84), obesity (r = –0.21; 95% CI, –0.35 to –0.06; I2 = 91.08), HDL-C level (r = 0.05; 95% CI, 0.02-0.08; I2 = 0), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level (r = –0.06; 95% CI, –0.11 to –0.01; I2 = 58.94), and cardiometabolic risk (r = –0.08; 95% CI, –0.15 to –0.02; I2 = 69.53) later in life.
Conclusions and Relevance
This study suggests that early intervention and prevention strategies that target youth CRF may be associated with maintaining health parameters in later life.
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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.
Accepted for Publication: May 6, 2020.
Corresponding Author: Antonio García-Hermoso, PhD, Navarrabiomed, Complejo Hospitalario de Navarra, Universidad Pública de Navarra, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Navarra, Calle Irunlarrea 3, 31008 Pamplona, Spain (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: August 31, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.2400
Author Contributions: Dr García-Hermoso had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: García Hermoso, Ramírez-Vélez, Izquierdo.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: García Hermoso, Ramírez-Vélez, García-Alonso, Alonso-Martínez.
Drafting of the manuscript: García Hermoso, Izquierdo.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: García Hermoso.
Obtained funding: Alonso-Martínez.
Administrative, technical, or material support: García-Alonso.
Supervision: Ramírez-Vélez, Izquierdo.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Funding/Support: This study was funded by grant CENEDUCA1/2019 from the Department of Education of the Government of Navarra (Spain). Dr García-Hermoso is a Miguel Servet Fellow (Instituto de Salud Carlos III – CP18/0150). Dr Ramírez-Vélez is funded in part by Postdoctoral Fellowship Resolution ID 420/2019 of the Universidad Pública de Navarra.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding source had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
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