Recent studies have identified a remarkable association between indices of athletic performance and optimal health of the general public. Both high aerobic capacity and high skeletal muscle strength are associated with lower mortality. Furthermore, higher aerobic capacity and often higher skeletal muscle strength are associated with a lower prevalence of most chronic diseases. Also, maintenance of aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle strength by lifelong physical activity delays the biological ageing in most organ systems, therefore delaying premature death. These facts raise the question whether associations between high aerobic capacity and muscle strength are causally or associatively related to either metabolic health or elite performance. If a causal relationship was noted at the molecular level, it would have major public health implications. In this review, evidence is presented for the assertion that research on elite athletes and chronic disease prevention by exercise is actually addressing the same biochemical, physiological and genomic phenomena.
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Competing interests: None.
Funding: Support from the University of Missouri (FWB) and University of California at Los Angeles (CKR) was received during the process of this review.
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