This paper describes some fitness and health characteristics of 499 British men in relation to their age and activity levels. The men attended a fitness assessment unit on a voluntary basis and their ages ranged from 20 to 69 years (43.8 +/- 9.1 yr, mean +/- SD). All subjects underwent a complete medical examination prior to carrying out a standardised graded walking or running test on a treadmill. During the test expired air collections were made and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) was predicted from the oxygen uptake and heart rate measurements. All subjects were required to exercise up to 90-95% of their predicted maximum heart rate. Activity levels were assessed from a number of questions put to the patient by the doctor about the amount and type of exercise taken. Only 22% of the sample performed the minimum amount of exercise required to maintain a good functional capacity as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. Thirty-nine per cent were sedentary. The activity patterns of the older subjects differed from those of the younger subjects. The older age groups contained more sedentary individuals and fewer moderately active individuals (i.e. those taking exercise only once or twice a week). However the numbers taking regular exercise three or more times a week did not vary from one age group to the next. The mean VO2 max for the sample was 41.9 +/- 9.0 ml.kg 1min-1 and the mean body fat percentage 21.2 +/- 5.6%. The more active groups had higher VO2 max values and lower body fat, body weight and blood pressure values when compared with the less active groups. These differences were independent of age. These observations support the increasing evidence that exercise has a beneficial effect on health.
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