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Cardiorespiratory fitness and risk of disability pension: a prospective population based study in Finnish men


Background: Early retiring is a major social problem in many western countries.

Aim: To investigate whether good cardiorespiratory fitness prevents disability pensioning in Finnish middle-aged men.

Methods: Subjects were a random population based sample of 1307 men who were 42−60 years old at baseline, had not retired before baseline or died during follow up, and had undergone a cycle ergometer test at baseline. Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed at baseline with a maximal but symptom limited exercise test on an electrically braked cycle ergometer.

Results: During a follow up of 11 years on average, 790 (60.4%) men were awarded a disability pension, only 254 (19.4%) men reached the old-age pension without previous early pension, and 263 (20.1%) men were still working at the end of follow up. After adjustment for age, body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking, education, occupation, and baseline chronic diseases, an inverse association was observed between cardiorespiratory fitness and the risk of disability pension. Men with VO2max <25.98 ml/kg/min (lowest fifth) had a 3.28-fold (95% CI 1.70 to 6.32) and men with the duration of exercise test <9.54 minutes (lowest fifth) had a 4.66-fold (95% CI 2.43 to 8.92) risk of disability pension due to cardiovascular diseases compared with men in the highest fifths. Men with lowest fitness level also had an increased risk of disability pension due to musculoskeletal disorders, or all reasons combined.

Conclusions: Physical fitness is inversely associated with the risk of disability pension and especially with the risk of disability due to cardiovascular diseases.

  • pension
  • work disability
  • cardiorespiratory fitness
  • exercise test
  • oxygen uptake
  • population study
  • cohort study

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